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.
This may be one of my favorite books of the year so far, which makes sense as it is the sequel to one of my three favorite books from last year, The Gods of Gotham. Seven for a Secret finds Timothy Wilde six months removed from the events of the first book set up as an unofficial detective for the newly formed New York Police Department, known more familiarly as the Copper Stars.
Each book is based around a central mystery, and the one in Seven for a Secret revolves around the Fugitive Slave laws and the Blackbirders who enforce the law by capturing fugitive slaves as well as free blacks who were essentially kidnapped as part of this cultural milieu. We meet three light skinned blacks living in New York, Lucy and Jonas Adams and her sister Delia Wright. Lucy returns home to find Jonas and Delia kidnapped, and the book jumps off from that point as Lucy goes to Timothy Wilde to find her family.
I won’t go any further into the description of the plot, as to attempt to untangle it would likely only serve as confusing. Like its predecessor Seven for a Secret is full of the things I like. Well thought out and executed plot points, well drawn characters, and historical relevance. Lyndsay Faye continues to elucidate the 1840s through quotes of primary sources at the beginning of each chaper (including Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup) in order to highlight what New York, and to a greater extent the United States were like, over 150 years ago.
What keeps me from bumping this one up from 4.5 stars to 5 is that the strong character of Tim seems to evaporate in the third quarter of the book. Timothy Wilde is a character who is observant and quick, but much of the action in that section of the book relies on Tim getting things wrong, and not noticing things he should. It helped keep me in the dark as a reader, which is I gather what Ms. Faye was after, but after The Gods of Gotham and the opening chapters of this work where I was so excited to have this character back in my head, it felt like a letdown.
With that said, read these books. Read them in order though, because characters and story lines carry from one to the other.
All my Cannonball Reviews for the past 3 years can be found here.