Seven For a Secret is the second novel featuring 1840’s most reluctant New York City cop, Timothy Wilde. Still recovering from the shattering events of The Gods of Gotham, Wilde is celebrating a rare good day on the job when a beautiful woman staggers into his office at police headquarters and tells him her family has been stolen.
The woman, Lucy Adams, is part-black, and her sister and young son have been kidnapped by slave-hunters who are kidnapping free black citizens and passing them off as runaway slaves. (A practice that is also depicted in Solomon Northup’s 12 Years a Slave, which Faye quotes from at the beginning of several chapters.) The law offers little recourse for free blacks in such matters, and thus Timothy and his brother Valentine are forced to go outside the department to rescue Lucy’s family. The rescue attempt will set off a chain of events leading to several deaths and the exposure of corruption in the still-new NYPD and the Democratic Party which controls New York.
Like The Gods of Gotham, Seven For a Secret is an intricate, compelling mystery with a complex but satisfying solution. Faye’s prose is often too ornate for the ideas she is trying to express, and she has a rather odd insistence on having her main character making the same mistakes over and over again. However, Faye is great at establishing mood and place, and the strength of her plotting overwhelms any minor quibbles with aspects of her prose. If you’re a fan of the mystery genre, historical fiction, old New York, or just plain good stories in general, the Timothy Wilde series should be on your list.