Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Seven for a Secret

Summary: 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. -- Putnam

I have absolutely no excuses for why it took me so long to read SEVEN FOR A SECRET by Lyndsay Faye. This novel is the followup to THE GODS OF GOTHAM -- a book that I absolutely loved. (You can read my review here.) It wasn't until I realized that the third book in this series, THE FATAL FLAME, is coming out in the very near future that I moved this book to the top of my to-be-read file!

SEVEN FOR A SECRET takes place soon after the formation of the NYPD in the mid 1850s. Timothy Wilde is a talented cop who has seen his fair share of crime and corruption; however when Lucy Adams tells him that her family missing, he discovers the dark world of "blackbirders." Blackbirds are men who kidnap free black Northerners and sell them to southern slave owners.

Timothy sets out to find Lucy's sister and son, but he soon realizes that the lines between slave catching and law enforcement are blurred. When he asks for help from his brother Valentine, a policeman who walks both sides of the laws, Timothy encounters even more trouble... including a dead body.

I thoroughly enjoyed SEVEN FOR A SECRET much in the same way that I liked THE GODS OF GOTHAM. I love the characters and the setting, and Ms. Faye is just a wonderful writer. She brings 1850s New York to life with her realistic descriptions of the city and its inhabitants; and she definitely knows to to write a compelling mystery.

One of the reasons I appreciate this series so much is the character of Timothy Wilde. I absolutely love him. He's an incredibly complex characters and I enjoy seeing him balance his work life with his professional one. His relationship with his brother Valentine is complicated to say the least, and I love how Timothy is not only smart but also a man driven by his integrity. That's not to say that Timothy is perfect in his quest to solve the crimes in this novel, but he does try to do the right thing for the victims and his family.

Another aspect of this series that I find fascinating is the setting. The books take place when the NYPD is in its infancy. There is a great deal of corruption and not a whole heck of a lot of efficiency, and it's interesting to read about what the city was like during this time period. Often times, it's not a pretty picture with rampant crime and poverty. Ms. Faye has done a wonderful job of describing this time period and making the city come alive in my imagination.

In the case of SEVEN FOR A SECRET, the author tackled the subject matter of slavery and the crimes that occurred surrounding this institution. She showed some of the differences between the North and the South, and it was apparent that she did her research on this subject matter. This novel provided a glimpse into some of the more unusual aspects of slavery and slave catching, and I had never read a story about slavery from this angle.

And finally, I tend to get caught up in Timothy and the historical aspects of the story; however, the mystery aspect is outstanding. Ms. Faye definitely knows how to weave (and then unravel) a mystery. I loved the complexity of this one as well as the twists and turns of the story. Once again, Timothy outdid himself with figuring out the details of these crimes. I, on the other hand, was clueless about the intricacies!

Overall, SEVEN FOR A SECRET is a marvelous followup to THE GODS OF GOTHAM. Personally, I can't wait for THE FATAL FLAME next month! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I was the one person who struggled with The Gods of Gotham so I may not go on with the series. I know I'm in the minority, though. I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much!

Karen White said...

I loved both of these books, too. So excited that another is coming out. I am totally with you on the character of Timothy (and his brother and their complicated relationship). I read this right before 12 Years a Slave came out, and it was so interesting to me that this book quoted the book the movie was based on. I'd never heard of blackbirding before this book.

Beth F said...

I really liked Gods of Gotham, but not enough, I guess, to jump right on this one. I may try it in audio.