Author: Lyndsay Faye
Genre: historical mystery
Length: 444 pages
Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: The Indianapolis Public Library
Plot Basics: Six months after the events of “The Gods of Gotham”, NYPD copper star Timothy Wilde finds himself inside another case. When beautiful Lucy Adams finds her way to the police station in Ward Six (The Tombs), she tells Wilde that her family has been stolen. It’s a common enough practice in 1845 — stealing free Northerners of color and sending them South, claiming false reward money for capturing runaway slaves. Tim and his Party-boss brother, Valentine, end up in tangled web of politics, abolitionism and the Tammany Hall machine.
Banter Points: Timothy Wilde could have the potential to run a close second to Harry Dresden as my favorite first-person narrator solving crime. Where Harry is smart-mouthed and big, Timothy is lyrical and introspective and small (he is only 5’4″), but with a conscious and a ferocity that runs like the Hudson, “deep and dim and wide.”
It’s rare when a sequel surpasses an amazing debut, but Faye did just that in “Seven for a Secret.” The advantage to the second is that her world was built and the explanations of 1845 New York City, while present, were fewer. Additionally, instead of introducing the reader to the Wilde brothers and Mrs. Boehm and Bird and Piest and the rest, she got to plumb more of the depths of who they were.
The result is a book with a fantastic, twisted plot and all the red herrings you’d expect in a mystery, layered with the depth of characters people seem to think are reserved only for literary fiction. And, Tim has his own Moriarty-esque villain and that relationship is fantastic to watch.
Bummer Points: I missed all the “flash” — the criminal patter of the day that has now permeated our speech — in the first book. I’m guessing that was a barrier for some readers, the need to translate the plot (about mabs and molleys and kinchin) but to me, it steeped the book in reality. This plot didn’t require Tim to speak flash much and that also kept the book real, but I missed all the great words.
Word Nerd Recommendation: These are my pusher books for 2014 so far. I might have hand-sold “Gotham” to a Barnes and Noble employee when I saw it on a table there and eagerly snapped up a copy.
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