This was a quick enjoyable read, pure if predictable storytelling. I actually most enjoyed the edges and back of the story.
Some of the Goodreads reviews complained about the sidebar footnotes, but I really liked those, how they acknowledged the unusual, the unexplained and the ephemera of a time past that we don't understand and have little knowledge of. It was sort of like reading in a story in a museum, and these sidebars were the captions for the exhibits. The style of them, at the side of the page slightly indenting the text, was easier to read and less disruptive to the flow then standard footnotes in a tiny font at the bottom of the page.
It was fascinating to read of the myriad details of the tough lives of these 19th century New Yorkers. One of my favourite scenes was right at the beginning of the book (p6) -- it was like a long tracking shot through crowded raucous tenements, being shown the thieves, the mamas, the flies and rotten meat, the laughter and games.
...Boys grew into guttersnipes, then pickpockets, then roughs. They roamed the streets living for rare, fist-sized chunks of coal from ash barrels or the sweet hiss of beans running from the burlap bags they wounded with their knives at Tompkins Market. They ran down ladies for handouts and swarmed gentlemen for watches and chains. Kid Yaller, Pie-Eater, Bag o'Bones, Slobbery Tom, Four-Fingered Nick. Their names were made from body parts and scars, bragging rights and bad luck...
It had a wonderful rhythm and momentum.