This was another faintingviolet specialty! She read this 2 years ago and handed it off to me, and what a fantastic read it was! I’ve just finished a re-read of it, and since it’s a mystery, it’s not as strong the second time around, but that’s more due to the lack of surprise at the outcome than Faye’s writing.
But let’s get to the plot summary, Tim Wilde is a bar tender in 1845 New York City who finds himself unemployed and homeless after a fire burns down most of downtown Manhattan. His brother, Val, who is a firefighter and Tamany Hall tough, gets him a job on the newly minted, brand spanking new police force.
Tim is not pleased about this as it’s a gift from his brother, who he has serious issues with, and the job means he is beholden to the Democratic party and all the political games that go with it. Tim is not about politics, or any venture that Val is involved with for that matter, but he accepts the job because, you know, a paycheck is a paycheck.
Tim is also assigned to the 6th ward, which encompasses one of the worst areas of the city, the Five Points, and as he’s not a friend of Tamany hall, his paycheck is not far away from peanuts. Also, all of his belongings were burned in the fire, including a large stash of cash he was saving to marry the love of his life, so Tim’s not in such a great place for the beginning of the story.
And to say his life gets better is a relative statement once he meets the child-prostitute, Bird Daly. She’s covered in blood when he meets her on a street corner, and like the good Copper Star he is, he begins investigating why. But nothing in Tim’s life is ever easy, and he opens a can of worms that sets the whole of the 5-points and its surrounding slums to riot.
Faye’s writing style is superb and her knack for using historic vernacular and vivid description brings this usually overlooked time period to life. Tim Wilde, for all his unhappiness, is a wonderful narrator who you’ll want to spend all your time with. He’s witty, honest and observant and his emotional journey as he accepts his fate and talent as New York’s Copper Star is a fantastic journey to behold.