The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum

“Journalist Fox … pieces together a captivating biography of Fredericka Mandelbaum. … Fox’s detailed descriptions of intricate heists make for a transfixing tale. Readers will be swept up.”
 — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Margalit Fox’s meticulously researched The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum … is an unflinching, thought-provoking read. It doesn’t simply offer a gripping crime story; it interrogates how power, ambition, and identity intersect.”

— Democratic Underground


“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, The Imitation Game,
and author of The Last Days of Night

“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

“Margalit Fox … brings a lively storytelling style and a flair for conveying personalities to a history that’s stranger than fiction. … [She] offers a tale as madcap and thrilling as it is illustrative of American history and culture. The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum is riveting for fans of both history and entertaining storytelling.”

— Shelf Awareness

“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 sustained 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

“Throughout this extraordinary life story, Fox explores larger issues of how organized crime grew during the Gilded Age of municipal corruption and stark inequality. … Fox succeeds in rescuing a once-notorious public figure from historical obscurity. An engrossing portrait of an unlikely criminal mastermind.”

— Kirkus Reviews


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.

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The Talented Mrs. Mandelbaum

America’s first great mob boss was a nice Jewish mother. The astounding true story, coming from Random House on July 2!