Seven For A Secret by Lyndsay Faye

The Blurb On The Back:

One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a girl,

Four for a boy.

Five for silver,

Six for gold,

Seven for a secret, never to be told.

New York, 1846: The beautiful Mrs Lucy Adams hurtles through the gathering storm on a freezing St Valentine’s evening.  She stumbles, terrified, into the headquarters of the newly formed NYPD, and copper star Timothy Wilde finds himself drawn into a thorny maze when she reports a horrifying robbery: her family, she says, has been stolen.

Timothy is hardened to the injustices of life in the unforgiving city he’s grown up in, but that doesn’t mean he accepts them.  With immigrants flooding into the docks every day, communities are battling for their place in the new world, and many fall victim to the clash.  But the worst danger on the streets are the blackbirders; slave-catchers whose inhuman trade is not merely legal – it’s law enforcement.  Now Timothy, along with his wayward brother Valentine, is about to bring the fight right to the heart of the corrupt political machine he was hired to defend …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

February 1846, New York.  Timothy Wilde is a copper star, part of the newly formed New York police department and the only officer charged with solving crimes.  On Valentine’s Day Mrs Lucy Adams, a beautiful black woman, arrives at the police headquarters: someone has kidnapped her sister and her son.  Wilde’s friend, Julius Carpenter, works with the New York Committee of Vigilance (a group that protects black people) who point him towards Sexias Varker and Luke Coles – slavecatchers known to take freed people and sell them in the southern states.

But tracking down Lucy’s relatives plunges Wilde and his flamboyant brother Valentine into the murky world of local politics and racial inequality where murder is simply as an easy way to achieve your ends and Silkie Marsh is at the heart of an evil web, pulling her malevolent strings to hurt both brothers and those they care about …

The second in Lyndsay Faye’s GODS OF GOTHAM TRILOGY is an atmospheric historical crime story that makes the most of the location, the period and the horrors of slavery and has a wonderful antagonist in the form of the sociopath Silkie Marsh but I don’t buy Timothy Wilde or his brother Valentine as their attitudes and behaviour are too 21st century for me, although I enjoyed their relationship and would read the other two books.  Faye is great at recreating life in 1840s New York (e.g. the local cant and the sordid politics of the Democratic Party).  Her portrayal of the plight of even freed slaves is genuinely chilling and she makes good use of source material by including quotes from works of the time at the head of each chapter and wrapping those issues into the central mystery.  I also thought Silkie Marsh was a genuinely chilling antagonist, sociopathic and conniving I believed in her vendetta against Timothy and Valentine and her willingness to play different people against each other.  However I didn’t buy Timothy’s reactions to the world he lives in (e.g. his failure to understand that black people were unable to give testimony in court) and his attitude towards things like homosexuality or Valentine’s bisexuality seemed a bit too 21st century to me (although I liked how he applied his own experience to solving mysteries).  That aside, the story and characters kept me turning the pages and I really want to read the other books in the trilogy.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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