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SEVEN FOR A SECRET
by Lindsay Faye
Amy Einhorn/Putnam, September 2013
437 pages
$26.95
ISBN: 0399158383


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As this masterful, entertaining, and affecting historical novel opens, a woman returns to her Manhattan home to find her family missing. At another home in Manhattan, a family finds a valuable painting missing. Because the second comes to his attention first, Timothy Wilde, a fire-scarred man recruited to be one of the first "copper stars" in the newly-formed New York Police Department, follows his nose and a few clues to retrieve the painting from an unlikely place, a ruined carriage in the wild reaches beyond the city where a very young chimneysweep has established a personal art museum of sorts. Retrieving the stolen family proves a bit more challenging.

Lucy Adam's mixed-race sister and her small son have the misfortune to be valuable property. Though free and residents of New York, a state that doesn't allow slavery, a court decision has made it legal and profitable for "blackbirders" adventurers who track down escaped slaves in the northern states and return them south for cash to thrive, and it's all too easy for a white man to claim free persons of color are lying about their status and be allowed to take his captives to a slave state where they can be sold. When Adams finds her family missing, she is certain they have been kidnapped and face a life of misery.

Timothy Wilde is horrified by slavery, and by the fact that he is required by law to facilitate the slave trade. He takes on Lucy's cause even though it means he must rely on his drug-demented, thrill-seeking, and mercurial older brother Valentine, whom he loves and hates with equal fierceness, and it will pit him against a menace he knows all too well. Silkie Marsh is a beautiful woman with no capacity for empathy, a knack for cruelty, and friends in high places.

As in her first novel in this series, GODS OF GOTHAM, Faye has imaginatively recreated the city of New York in 1846, when the police force was new and raw, the northern reaches of Manhattan were wild countryside, and extreme poverty pitted desperate Irish immigrants against whoever else was vying for a foothold on the very bottom rungs of the social ladder. She introduces each chapter with a snippet of a historical document that not only provides context but a startling glimpse of our past. Her sympathetic hero, Timothy Wilde, narrates the story in a pithy vernacular (with some of the historically-documented criminal argot provided in a glossary). Though very occasionally he utters an anachronistic phrase, Faye generally manages to keep the language both historically grounded and completely fresh. This is no literary wax museum of historical arcana. Her New York is vibrant and alive and a fascinating place to visit though one might not want to live there.

In THE GODS OF GOTHAM, Lyndsay Faye established herself as one of the most compelling new voices in crime fiction. This second novel lives up to her extraordinary promise. Whether or not you are a fan of historical mysteries, this series is not to be missed.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, September 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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