Book Review: Seven for a Secret, by Lyndsay Faye

The newly-minted New York City police force and its most reluctant recruit are back in Lynsday Faye's Seven for a Secret, second in a planned trilogy featuring the admirable if somewhat cynical Timothy Wilde. 

The novel picks up six months after the concluding events of its prequel, Gods of Gotham, which left Timothy scarred by fire, broken-hearted, and generally discontent with the sordid state of affairs witnessed in New York's underbelly. It takes little time to realize little has changed in Timothy's world--he is still scarred, still broken-hearted, and still generally disgusted by the cruelty he witnesses as a copper star--but the lack of preamble required to introduce his back story give Faye an opportunity to let his personality shine. The result is a narrator who is alternatively sardonic, sarcastic, cynical, witty, idiotic, and humble--and always kind, even if that kindness means letting his anger out on the bad guys at hand.

Where Gods of Gotham pitted Timothy against child prostitution, Seven for a Secret sets him against the prejudices and racism of 1840s America. A missing persons case leads him to the den of two slavecatchers of the worst variety, catching not only runaway slaves but free blacks for sale into slavery in the South. Timothy's sense of justice is, not surprisingly, more than a little put out at the discovery of this blatantly illegal practice, but as he blunders about in an attempt to right wrongs, he finds himself at odds with the political machinery of Tammany Hall New York--and no one wants to be at odds with Tammany Hall.

As with the previous installment of Wilde's story, Seven for a Secret is structured as Timothy's written account of his experiences; he notes that where writing police reports brings him little relief, writing a full tale allows him to unburden himself of the injustices he continually encounters in the city. The first-person narration is handily done, and Timothy is as full-fledged a character as one could hope for; even when he acts the fool, it's hard not to want him to win in the long run. And win he does. Sort of. Sometimes. Because Seven for a Secret never takes the easy way out, and Faye never bows to the pressure some mystery writers seem to feel for a happy ending tied up neatly with a bow. Timothy's story is wild and messy and therefore believable, despite the occasional coincidence here and there, and Faye's incorporation of historical details (right down to which streets on the NYC grid were paved versus dirt in the 1840s) only makes it all the stronger. All 484 pages of Seven for a Secret fly by at an incredible pace, but it's well worth it to take your time with this one to savor not only the story, but the history packed within it.

The Bottom Line: Those who have already read Gods of Gotham will not be disappointed by the second volume of Timothy Wilde's adventures. Anyone new to the stories of this copper star will find enough detail in Seven for a Secret not to be confused, but as the conclusion of Gods of Gotham is more than one alluded to in Seven for a Secret, it really does make sense to start at the beginning. Spoilers and all that.


One last thing: I listened to Gods of Gotham on audio and read Seven for a Secret in print; as the original narrator, Steven Boyer, is returning for the audiobook sequel, I'm comfortable recommending the audiobook for any audiophiles out there. Boyer brought Timothy to life so incredibly in the first volume that it was his voice narrating the story of the second to me in my head.


Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley of this title for review.
Seven for a Secret | Lyndsay Faye | Amy Einhorn Books | Hardcover | September 2013 | 484 pages


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