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The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum: The Rise and Fall of an American Organized-Crime Boss (Hardcover)

The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum: The Rise and Fall of an American Organized-Crime Boss By Margalit Fox Cover Image
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(True Crime)


America’s first great organized-crime lord was a lady—a nice Jewish mother named Mrs. Mandelbaum.

“A tour de force . . . With a pickpocket’s finesse, Margalit Fox lures us into the criminal underworld of Gilded Age New York.”—Liza Mundy, author of The Sisterhood

In 1850, an impoverished twenty-five-year-old named Fredericka Mandelbaum came to New York in steerage and worked as a peddler on the streets of Lower Manhattan. By the 1870s she was a fixture of high society and an admired philanthropist. How was she able to ascend from tenement poverty to vast wealth?

In the intervening years, “Marm” Mandelbaum had become the country’s most notorious “fence”—a receiver of stolen goods—and a criminal mastermind. By the mid-1880s as much as $10 million worth of purloined luxury goods (nearly $300 million today) had passed through her Lower East Side shop. Called “the nucleus and center of the whole organization of crime,” she planned robberies of cash, gold and diamonds throughout the country.

But Mrs. Mandelbaum wasn’t just a successful crook: She was a business visionary—one of the first entrepreneurs in America to systemize the scattershot enterprise of property crime. Handpicking a cadre of the finest bank robbers, housebreakers and shoplifters, she handled logistics and organized supply chains—turning theft into a viable, scalable business.

The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum paints a vivid portrait of Gilded Age New York—a city teeming with nefarious rogues, capitalist power brokers and Tammany Hall bigwigs, all straddling the line between underworld enterprise and “legitimate” commerce. Combining deep historical research with the narrative flair for which she is celebrated, Margalit Fox tells the unforgettable true story of a once-famous heroine whose life exemplifies America’s cherished rags-to-riches narrative while simultaneously upending it entirely.

About the Author

Margalit Fox originally trained as a cellist and a linguist before pursuing journalism. As a senior writer in The New York Times’s Obituary News Department, she wrote the front-page public sendoffs of some of the leading cultural figures of our age. Winner of the William Saroyan Prize for Literature and author of four previous nonfiction books, The Confidence Men, Conan Doyle for the Defense, The Riddle of the Labyrinth and Talking Hands, Fox lives in Manhattan with her husband.

Praise For…

“A tour de force . . . With a pickpocket’s finesse, Margalit Fox lures us into the criminal underworld of Gilded Age New York, with excursions into the art of larceny and the finer points of safecracking. The portrait of Marm Mandelbaum is irresistible: In Fox’s lush prose, you can feel the softness of the silk and see the brilliance of the diamonds she amasses and profitably passes on. This book is pitch perfect.”—Liza Mundy, author of The Sisterhood

“Fox effortlessly pulls the reader into the grimy world of Gilded Age Manhattan. At the center of it all, we meet one of the most distinctive lawbreakers I’ve ever encountered—Mrs. Mandelbaum was not only a schemer but a dreamer, who saw running a crime ring as the rare way a woman could get ahead in a ruthless metropolis. This book is so full of twists, it makes you want to break out the popcorn.”—Rachel Syme, staff writer at The New Yorker

“Margalit Fox has a delightful talent for breathing life into the dead to illuminate some of the world’s most fascinating people, and Fredericka Mandelbaum may be one of her most interesting subjects yet. A true-crime saga from America’s golden era of graft and grift that reads like the prequel to Oceans 11.—Daniel Schulman, author of The Money Kings

“Who but Margalit Fox could have come up with this delicious Gilded Age tale of Marm Mandelbaum, a diamond-laden Jewish mother who ran America’s biggest crime syndicate, and her decades-long battle of wits with those trying to bring her down? Filled with the most outlandish characters imaginable, this book brilliantly explores a culture ruled by greed, graft, and inequality, with more than a few unsettling similarities to today.”—Lynne Olson, author of Empress of the Nile

“Margalit Fox constructs a heist of her own in this richly detailed, captivating portrait of a penniless woman who rises to the ranks of criminal mastermind in Gilded Age New York.”—Graham Moore, Academy Award–winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game and author of The Last Days of Night
“Fox succeeds in rescuing a once-notorious public figure from historical obscurity. . . . An engrossing portrait of an unlikely criminal mastermind.”Kirkus Reviews
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593243855
ISBN-10: 0593243854
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: July 2nd, 2024
Pages: 336
Language: English