Book Review Seven For A Secret: Lyndsay Faye (Kindle Edition)

Posted: October 28, 2013 in Books

Seven For A Secret

In 1846, Lucy Adams, a free black woman, bursts into the office of Timothy Wilde, newly  minted Copper Star of the New York City police department, and says that her sister Delia, and Lucy’s son Jonas had been taken by slave catchers, taking advantage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. Slave catchers take free blacks and return them to the South for money. Timothy goes to the Vigilance Committee, an organization formed to keep free blacks in the North away from slave catchers. George Higgins, head of the Vigilance Committee identify the slave catchers as Luke Coles and Seixas Varker.  Timothy and older brother Valentine, also a Copper Star, find where Delia and Jonas are being kept,  and Valentine roughs up Coles and Varker, which allows Jonas and Delia to escape.  Delia, Jonas, and Lucy take up residence at Valentine’s house.  No sooner are the three settled in Valentine’s house, than Lucy is found dead in Valentine’s house, and Delia and Jonas are missing.  Timothy finds Lucy’s body and hides her in an isolated place and starts investigating her murder.  During his investigation, he finds that Lucy was secretly married to Charles Adams, a white Democratic state Senator.  At this time in history, the Democrats are not the abolitionist party.  To complicate matters, Valentine is an up and coming member of the Democratic Party.  Who killed Lucy Adams?  Was Valentine Wide involved?  How much does Charles Adams know about the murder?  Where are Delia and Jonas?

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am in this book.  I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I finished Ms. Faye’s last book The Gods of Gotham.  The Gods of Gotham was so well written, and the characters so intricately drawn that I was expecting more of the same in this book.  I was mistaken.  The setup of the story is good, and she does a good job of setting up cliffhangers to get the reader to the next chapter, but she seems to resolve the conflicts, both large and small too quickly, and the last few chapters seem to be only filler.  Ms. Faye picks a very interesting subject as a backdrop, free blacks staying in the North, still under the threat of the Fugitive Slave Act, but somehow, she wrings the life out of this subject, and leaves the reader wondering what could have been.

It’s ironic that Ms. Faye uses a quote from the book “12 Years A Slave” in one of her chapter introductions, because she doesn’t show much interest in developing her new characters, Lucy is killed off very early on, George Higgins is given a very superficial description, but little motivation for anything he does.  Delia is missing for a lot of the book, Jonas doesn’t say much.  Why have a book featuring African Americans in this time if they don’t play an active role in determining their own freedom?

Ms. Faye doesn’t do much to develop her established characters, I didn’t learn much new about the supposed hero of this book Timothy Wilde, at points he seemed weak and unable to extricate himself from.  Tim seems to be unable to make a decision at times or think clearly.  The more heroic of the two brothers seems older brother Valentine, who always seems to keep his head, while Timothy is panicking about the situations he finds himself in.  Ms. Faye does add an attribute to Valentine that I don’t quite understand, other than to maybe add a new audience to her books, but I am being cynical.  Silky Marsh, the Madame, who was the nemesis of the Wilde brothers, plays much the same role in this book, but why is she the embodiment of evil, is it spite?  Is there a history between Marsh and the brothers?  A little backstory on Silky would have been nice. Finally, Mercy Underhill is beckoning Timothy like a siren from overseas.  Faye adds some intrigue near the end of the book, but the intrigue is not related to the murder mystery.

Seven For A Secret:  Unlucky seven for readers.

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