It is no secret that I’m a fan of Lyndsay Faye (see here, and here, oh, and here). I find Faye’s writing to hold a sensibility that combines the classical Arthur Conan Doyle plot-style with a more modern Law and Order feel of character and setting development. Her works are always absorbing and engaging, and I can’t speak highlight enough of them as a great way to spend a quiet day reading. So when her latest book came out this month, I was super excited to see it in my local Chapters store. Seven for a Secret is the second book in Faye’s Wilde Brothers cannon, and it’s a great addition to her portfolio.
Seven for a Secret picks up a few months after The Gods of Gotham ends (and, I’ll admit, I didn’t re-read GoG and I really wish I had). In Seven for a Secret, Timothy Wilde finds himself drawn into the politics and every-day reality of a society that is teetering on the brink of a civil war over the question of slavery. Set in New York, Timothy is drawn into the world of ‘blackbirders,’ who were something like modern-day bounty-hunters, tasked with capturing escaped black slaves who had fled to the North.
New York, as a major urban-centre, was either a good place to disappear to, or a stopping-place on the Underground Railroad to and freedom. Timothy becomes drawn into this world when Lucy Wright finds her sister and son missing, and appeals to Tim to investigate where they have been taken too. What follows is a completely engaging tale of twists, turns and danger that ends with such heart-breaking simplicity and yet complexity that this is a book destined to give you a book hangover. Canada
While the plot is masterful, you can’t overlook the characters that drive it. Timothy Wilde is at once a highly-capable detective and yet a massive a ball of self-doubt – the dynamic this creates makes you want to hug him and reassure him that everything will turn out alright. Contrast him to his bluff brother Valentine, who barrels through life with a level of self-assuredness that we all strive for; while Val knows, respects and likes who he is, in reality, he engages in a variety of precarious situations that, if they became known, could be the ruin of him. Mrs. Boehm and Bird, the women who make up Tim’s domestic existence seem to be Tim’s unlooked for rewards for being a good man, and a good copper. They bring a level of vulnerability and goodness to Tim’s life that makes the reader glad he has some safe-harbour to return to at the end of the day. While these are just a handful of the main characters, the secondary and supporting characters are equally well-crafted, dynamic and engaging. Even the villains are presented in such a way that you’d almost like Faye to write books for each of them, just so you could hear about their stories some more.
In terms of writing style, Faye blew me away. There were long stretches of the book where I recognized the language she was using as English, but in which she imbued her narrative and dialogue with such a delicate and engaging rhythm that I would go back and re-read it several times just to enjoy the patter of it all. Faye’s writing style incorporates a lot of ‘flash’ terminology, but she’s also managed to create (what seems to be) a new and dynamic way of presenting the English language in term of pacing and arrangement – it almost becomes a language of its own. When reading this book, take your time, and really enjoy these passages – they are a revelation of what can be done with a deft hand and a good ear for language.
So, final verdict? I think it’s pretty obvious. Read this book. Read all of Faye’s books, and make sure you are plugged into the publishing world to know when the next one is coming out. I believe Faye is almost done with the third book in her Wild Brother series, and I already can’t wait to get my hands on it. Faye is an author I’m going to be following for years to come.