From Edgar-nominated author Lyndsay Faye comes the next book in what Gillian Flynn calls, "a brilliant new mystery series."
Six months after the formation of the NYPD, its most reluctant and talented officer, Timothy Wilde, thinks himself well versed in his city's dark practices - until he learns of the gruesome underworld of lies and corruption ruled by the "blackbirders," who snatch free Northerners of color from their homes, masquerade them as slaves, and sell them South to toil as plantation property.
The abolitionist Timothy is horrified by these traders in human flesh. But in 1846, slave catching isn't just legal - it's law enforcement.
When the beautiful and terrified Lucy Adams staggers into Timothy's office to report a robbery and is asked what was stolen, her reply is, "My family." Their search for her mixed-race sister and son will plunge Timothy and his feral brother, Valentine, into a world where police are complicit and politics savage, and corpses appear in the most shocking of places. Timothy finds himself caught between power and principles, desperate to protect his only brother and to unravel the puzzle before all he cares for is lost.
©2013 Lyndsay Faye (P)2013 Penguin Audio
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Seven for a Secret picks up six months after Gods of Gotham, continuing the story of young Timothy Wilde, the sole detective of the "copper stars," the newly-formed New York City Police. Many of the social concerns and gritty realities of New York City first addressed in Gods of Gotham get deeper exploration here, including the graft and corruption behind Tammany Hall, the ethnic tensions surrounding the Irish question, the helplessness of children in a city run by and for adults, and the tenuous nature of the fledgling police force, threatened from without and within by politics and petty hatreds.
At the heart of this novel is the omnipresent threat of "blackbirders," who specialized in kidnapping blacks, whether free citizens or runaway slaves, and sending them to a life of enslavement in the South. When a young biracial woman rushes into Wilde's office and explains that her family has been stolen, the search and the mystery begins.
Just as The Gods of Gotham turned the spotlight on the anti-Irish and anti-Catholic prejudices of the time, Seven for a Secret considers the constant threat that the institution of slavery posed to black Americans, including those in so-called "free" states, and the bigotry built into the U.S. and New York systems. Lyndsay Faye opens every chapter with a poignant and telling quotation from the period that drives her message home.
The recurring characters such as Wilde's "party boss" brother Valentine, landlady Mrs. Boehm, and friend Julius get further development ("Gentle Jim" nearly stole the show), and the new characters are deeply compelling. New York City itself remains the central figure in the story, and Faye's well-researched and piercing gaze lays it open for the reader.
Steven Boyer's able narration lets the prose shine through.
I'm giving this four stars rather than five, because Timothy Wilde's character rang less true for me in this book than in the first. He seems to have forgotten much of his street savvy, and he repeatedly comes across as far too naive for a man who grew up with only a brother for a parent and then tended bar for years. His confusion and bewilderment serves the reader well -- surely this isn't how things are done? oh, so it is -- but it seems odd in the man who was so capable (if in over his head) in the first novel and so at home in his city.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy this novel, because I did, quite thoroughly. I'll be waiting for the next book in this series with anticipation.
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