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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyndsay Faye: Seven for a Secret.
In the follow-up novel to "Gods of Gotham" Faye has taken a much under-appreciated aspect of the issue of slavery in 1840`s America - the iniquitous activities of slave-catchers.

The story continues the career of Timothy Wilde of the recently formed New York City police force, and is narrated in the first-person as a case-file by Wilde himself; an investigation...
Published 16 months ago by J. Mcdonald

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3.0 out of 5 stars I had to use stronger-than-normal reading glasses (usually kept for very fine sewing tasks)
This book was spoilt for me by the very small font. I could only read it for a short period at a time as it made my head ache. I had to use stronger-than-normal reading glasses (usually kept for very fine sewing tasks), which was not comfortable.
Having struggled through, I am not sure I'd read another of Lyndsay Faye's books. I realise this is the second in a series...
Published 1 month ago by bookworm8

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyndsay Faye: Seven for a Secret., 21 Dec. 2013
By 
J. Mcdonald "Yelochre" (Glasgow, UK) - See all my reviews
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In the follow-up novel to "Gods of Gotham" Faye has taken a much under-appreciated aspect of the issue of slavery in 1840`s America - the iniquitous activities of slave-catchers.

The story continues the career of Timothy Wilde of the recently formed New York City police force, and is narrated in the first-person as a case-file by Wilde himself; an investigation into the abduction of a black woman and child leads him into the murky and immoral world of "blackbirders" who, under the legally sanctioned business of re-capturing escaped slaves, will snatch any black person in the knowledge that the law will do little to prevent them. This premise makes for a long and convoluted plot, evocative of the period due to the level of historical detail and use of language the author has employed. As in her previous novel, this presents the reader with an immersive recreation of the New York underworld of the era; where it falters a little is in the levels of verbosity her character indulges in, which can require a degree of patience. I can quite understand that some readers may find this off-putting, although I myself enjoy the author`s use of language; there is less "flash" vernacular in evidence this time around, but it is present - it isn't difficult to follow, taken in context.

On the whole, this succeeds well as an historical detective novel with the advantage of relatively unusual subject matter; good as a stand-alone read, better if you've read the first in what I now assume will be a series.
I enjoyed it and am happy to recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timothy and Valentine Wilde return with another gripping story., 2 Mar. 2015
By 
A. I. McCulloch "Andrea" (Co Durham) - See all my reviews
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I loved The Gods of Gotham, the book that introduced us to one of the first of the 1840s New York City policemen, ex-barman Timothy Wilde.
Like that book, Seven for a Secret is packed with fascinating historical details and the language of a bygone era.

Timothy's older brother Val who pulled a reluctant Timothy into the newly minted force and persuaded him to become a copper star, returns in this book, dissolute, base and brave, plumbing further depths as a deeply flawed but somehow loveable hero.
The action of Seven for a Secret takes place six months after The Gods of Gotham, and the fiery summer heat of the first book is exchanged for the mud and slush of a New York winter. Timothy is off the streets and has become a proto-detective, one of the world's first, given the toughest cases to solve.

Once more the plot is an absolute cracker. With slave shortages in the South, free Northerners of colour are being kidnapped and sold into slavery in the southern states. Timothy is asked for help by a beautiful woman, Lucy, whose mixed race son and sister have disappeared. Timothy and Valentine uncover corruption all along the way and at the highest level in their attempts to reveal the truth. Real-life characters blend with the fictional in a fascinating mix.
The Gods of Gotham had a more convoluted plot than Seven for a Secret in my opinion, but this latest book is no less fascinating. This book can be read without reading the first in the series, but having read the back story I did feel it helped, particularly with the nature of the relationship between Valentine and Timothy.
One final detail - if you've ever wondered where the expression 'OK' came from, this book gives what may be the definitive answer. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Timothy Wilde Plods On, 3 Dec. 2014
By 
I. P. Gearing (UK) - See all my reviews
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Much of the structural patterns of the Gods of Gotham are to be found in this follow up, which make it strong, but also the need for better, more ruthless editing remains. Timothy Wilde, accidental hero, for someone who lives in the moment, seems awfully drawn towards mawkish reflection at times. I can see that shades the personality of someone who is really stuck in the loss of being orphaned - as related in the first book - and a subsequent and difficult relationship with his savvy, protective and ambitious big brother - on whose advancement he increasingly becomes a brake. Families are complex, or supposed to be. Timothy Wilde seems to have regressed in the six months since the last book, but maybe that is a defence against the everyday realities of 1840's New York, the life at the bottom of which is likened to a rigged game of musical chairs in Faye's memorable description. Maybe that is the nature Timothy, for certainly in the first half or so of this book he would rather kick that chair over than sit on it, even when his brother is holding back the crowd to give him a better chance. He is neither grateful for it nor cognoscente of the envy that generates. The roguish Valentine is the more attractive character and I wonder, if Ms Faye were starting this series from scratch, whether he would be more focal. That, of course, would be a different book and beneath this there is a solid historical crime novel. Enjoyable, well written, could have been profitably shorter, authentic enough without being obscure and well worth this readers investment. I hope there is a third (and a fourth) if only in the hope someone knocks some sense into Mr Timothy Wilde!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Historical Crime Drama, 17 Sept. 2013
By 
atticusfinch1048 - See all my reviews
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Seven For A Secret by Lyndsay Faye is one of the most atmospheric, historically rich crime thrillers that I have read in a long time, and it is certainly one of the best historical crime novels I have read. In terms of imagery and the use of language it is absolutely spot on for the English usage in New York in the 1840s, of both native New Yorkers. Fortunately for those easily confused there is a selected terminology that criminals used at the time, adapted from a book of the time, the writer of which appears in the novel.

The novel is set in New York 1846 and the New York Police Department has only been in existence for six months. New York is being filled by people from all over America, the world and nowhere in particular. Added to this is the daily influx of the Irish escaping the potato famine in Ireland and escaped slaves from the southern states as well as the free slaves of New York.

Timothy Wilde is one of New York's copper stars based at the Tombs who starts by investigating a stolen art work but then stumbles on to the more dangerous world of the slave catchers. Slave catchers who will stop at nothing to return slaves back to their southern owners and masters and will use all the violence necessary to protect their trade. It is Wilde's wayward brother Valentine, a police captain and fireman that often has to come to his brother's aid.

While investigating the disappearance then murder of Lucy Adams brings Wilde in to every devious aspect of New York life in 1846, while trying to find her sister and son hopefully alive. This brings him to the attention of corrupt police officers, the Vigilance Committee and the famous Slave Underground Railway that operated in New York. All this lands him an appointment with the infamous Tammany Hall politics of New York and shows how high the corruption went. Against all the odds, crossing the politicians, corrupt police and the slave catchers Wilde manages to solve the case admittedly maybe not in one piece but solve the crime he does.

Lyndsay Faye has written a beautifully researched with attention to detail crime novel drawing on the history of New York. The imagery that you get from the descriptions of the characters and places in New York is strong in fact I kept seeing the Gangs of New York (even if it is set in the 1860s) in my mind's eye while reading this wonderful novel. I enjoyed this book so much that I am now looking for Lyndsay Faye's first book, The God's of Gotham. All I can keep saying about this book is that it is simply brilliant, buy it now and step back in time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diversity, poverty and kidnapping woven into a complex mystery, 6 Sept. 2013
By 
JK "J. K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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There can be no doubt Lyndsay Faye is a talented writer. In Seven for a Secret she evokes a wonderful sense of history in the guise of New York during the mid 19th century. The immigrant population is huge and more and more people are flooding into the City in an attempt to escape poverty and destitution. The differing cultures don't necessarily live happily alongside one another and there's a great sense of friction, uncertainty and mistrust running through the novel. I don't know how accurate the historical research has been but; the historical elements work so well I was prepared to let go of any doubts and go along with the story.

The core of the novel is all at once captivating, dark and awful as 'blackbirders' prowl and search for anyone who might be considered an escaped slave and who can be returned to their 'owner' for profit. Problem is; the blackbirders aren't too choosy and seem happy to capture freemen alongside those still considered enslaved. What follows is a mixture of cultural diversity, poverty, crime and kidnapping running alongside a newly created police force, copper stars, sent in with little more than a note book and a great deal of street smarts to clear up the mess.

In general I enjoyed the characters and found them a quirky, odd mix of the believable and the not quite so much. Faye does the best job she can with dialogue and makes a canny attempt at a realistic vocabulary, to the extent she has included a dictionary full of words that have now slipped out of common use. There is a supplement at the start of the novel to introduce the reader to those words and their meanings.

Seven for a Secret is a joy to read but it's also frustrating in places as not a great deal happens. The plot is so wide open there's little that doesn't become glaringly obvious which means little tension develops however; the sheer depth of history, diversity and darkness alongside the beautiful, rambling style of writing creates a heady mix which helped me push through to the end.

There's no doubt Seven for a Secret is an entertaining, complex mystery and works well as a stand alone if you haven't read Gods of Gotham. I wouldn't say it's the best novel I've read this year but it's certainly one of the most original in terms of writing style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction with a social conscience, 10 July 2013
By 
Petra Bryce "bookworm" (Malvern, Worcs) - See all my reviews
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Lucy Adams, a beautiful young woman of African descent, stumbles into New York police headquarters to file a report: her family has been stolen. Timothy Wilde and his colleague Jakob Piest, along with Timothy's unorthodox brother Valentine, are soon on the trail of certain blackbirders, men employed to capture escaped slaves and return them to their owners in the South. Shortly afterwards a body is found, and it is again up to Timothy, with the help of his brother and his friends, to discover the reason and the perpetrator behind the crime.

This is the second novel featuring Timothy Wilde, a copper star of the newly formed New York police, taking place about six months after the eventful days of the previous summer described in The Gods of Gotham. Those not familiar with Timothy Wilde will find him a short man with a big heart, an idealist, someone who learns people's secrets by listening to them, having been a bartender before a disastrous fire necessitated a change of career. Told in the first person, he allows the reader access to his innermost thoughts, and we discover that he is wracked by insecurities and has quite an unconventional way of looking at things. As in The Gods of Gotham, Seven for a Secret again features the use of flash, an historically documented mix of several languages primarily spoken "by the poorer classes and the more nefarious denizens of the ghettos where they were forced to live", but also used extensively by Timothy and Valentine. It's not essential to have read the first volume in the series, but it definitely helps to understand characters' back stories and certain events are referenced repeatedly during the course of the novel. It's a slow start where the main characters are introduced and the scene is set - a freezing cold New York - so that the violent crime that happens next really shocked me because it came so unexpected. Lyndsay Faye portrays a perverted world, one where segregation and casual cruelty against slaves, but also against freeborn citizens of African descent and those of a darker skin than the accepted Caucasian white, are the norm, and amalgamation and abolitionism are frowned upon and considered abnormal. The descriptions of inhuman treatment don't leave anything to the imagination and are often difficult to read, as are quotes from various primary sources such as first-hand accounts by slaves, so-called patriots or other chroniclers; they still manage to deliver a punch even after 170 years. With such a sombre background it is nearly inevitable that the central mystery takes a bit of a step back, and Timothy spends a lot of time criss-crossing the freezing streets in search of clues or pondering the significance of any new intelligence; in those parts the plot sags a bit in my opinion, but because Timothy is such an engaging and affable character, we willingly follow him.

Another worthwhile and thought-provoking read by Lyndsay Faye, and I hope this won't be the last time that Timothy Wilde has had occasion to employ his considerable skills of detection; I certainly hope to see Silkie Marsh, a very memorable villainess who we first encountered in The Gods of Gotham, receive her just deserts. More, please.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seven for a Secret by Lyndsey Faye, 2 Aug. 2013
By 
V. L. Harding (Wales UK) - See all my reviews
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This is Lyndsey Faye's second novel recounting the adventures of Timothy Wilde, it's set in New York in 1846. Timothy is a copper star "Policeman" in the recently formed New York Police Department and the story recaptures yet again New York's streets and alleys, the dirty grimy tenements,drinking dens and brothels and the people that inhabit them. It deals with the influx of Irish and European immigrants and their exploitation by the shady politicians of Tammany Hall.
Timothy becomes involved in the case of a free coloured family, kidnapped from their home by blackbirders and in the process of being transported to the Southern States to be sold into slavery.
When Tim's friend, Julius Carpenter, a negro bartender is also brought before the Court by slave catchers claiming he is an escaped slave from a Southern plantation the Vigilance Committee of the Abolitionist Movement asks Tim to testify on his behalf. The story is a murder mystery but the historical content makes it much more interesting than the normal "whodunnit."
The book highlights the obscene laws regarding black people and slavery which existed at that time. At the beginning of each chapter there are a few paragraphs written by historical characters of the time, from each section of the divide concerning slavery, which cannot fail to move any independent person.
A very good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched Historical Novel, 7 Feb. 2015
By 
Brett H (Brighton) - See all my reviews
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I first read Gods of Gotham, which is the predecessor to this story, a couple of years back. It was an excellent and original story, very well written, and I was delighted when I discovered that there was a subsequent book. However, it is not necessary to have read the predecessor to thoroughly enjoy this story although it is worthwhile doing so as it is such a good book.

One of the strengths of this author’s writing is that she has clearly gone to great lengths to research the background. Set in New York in about 1845, the descriptions are so good that the reader can really feel they are walking the streets, seeing the sights and smelling the smells of the locality. In many ways it is a depressing place. The population has been rapidly expanding as the Irish flooded in as a result of the Potato Famine, jobs and accommodation are scarce and there is much poverty and deprivation. Naturally there are plenty who wish to exploit the rest of the citizens to their own advantage.

This tale is, as with the Gods of Gotham, told by Timothy Wilde who is a member of the newly formed police force or a Copper Star as the police are generally known. This time he brushes up against slavers who are none to particular whether they are taking escaped slaves or free blacks who are citizens of New York. It was a despicable trade and one which anyone who has seen the recent film, Twelve Years a Slave, will be somewhat familiar with.

There is a lot of ‘flash’ which is the local language of the underworld and the poor. However, whereas in some books authors drop in the occasional foreign word to give local flavour, here it is much more pervasive and also much more intelligible since many of the words are somewhat familiar and the reader soon gets use to the colloquialisms.

Overall I thought this was another excellent offering from an author who writes very well and takes the trouble to research what she is writing about in depth. I would think there is plenty of mileage in Timothy Wilde as a character and I hope to read more about him before too long.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good sequel as Faye develops and strengthens her characters, 27 Sept. 2014
By 
bomble "bomble" (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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I reviewed Gods of Gotham in February 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so when I was given the opportunity to review the sequel I was delighted. Sequels are a delicate matter - the best can stand on their own as well as develop and extend the characters introduced in the original. Seven for a Secret succeeds on both counts in my opinion. As it had been over two years since I had explored the streets of 1840s New York under Faye's imaginative guidance, I didn't recall all the fine detail of the first book and found there was just enough drip-fed reminiscences of the first story to link them tidily together without building sequel totally dependent on the events of the first. Faye continues to use well-researched context, quoting from contemporary records relating to the treatment of slaves (and those `mistaken' for them) in the Northern states. I also enjoyed the use of the Flash slang of the times which she had introduced in book 1.

The story itself is more about highlighting a historical setting and having our hero variously entering and escaping from peril whilst displaying a liberal outlook that wouldn't seem out of place at a modern human rights rally. In other words, the plot is a good-enough hanging rail onto which Faye places her characters and historical context and I probably won't be able to tell you exactly what happened in the story after a few more weeks. However, I will remember the powerful images of the treatment of slaves and free black citizens in the North; the ruthless bounty hunters and twisted legal system that allowed such inequity and the horrors that they were trying to escape from in the Southern slaver states. Faye's choice of subject matter was right on trend in 2013 - Seven for a Secret (which quotes from book 1Twelve Years a Slave) was published on 17th September 2013; the hugely successful film 12 Years a Slave came out in November of that year. If you are interested in that subject matter then this is fascinating place to find out more.

As I said in my review of the Gods of Gotham, I'm a lifelong fan of Sherlock Holmes and when I need a little `comfort reading' that's what I often turn to. Knowing that Faye herself is a super-fan of Holmes says it all. This is not derivative but it's certainly in part homage to the powers of deductive reasoning put on the page by Arthur Conan Doyle. If you like disappearing into Victorian London with Holmes then there's a fair chance you'll like a stint in New York with the Wilde brothers and their colourful array of partners and adversaries. Very good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening Expediency, 22 Feb. 2014
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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I read ‘Seven For A Secret’ a few days after watching the film ‘12 Years A Slave’ which covers the same subject of slave-catching in mid 1840s in America. Though the film centred on the horrific detail of slave life and was based on the real experience of Solomon Northup, this book is much more perceptive and incisive in spite of it being historical fiction. Main protagonist and story teller is Timothy Wilde, a liberal minded slavery abolitionist and an early ‘copper star’ detective in the embryonic New York police force. He finds the police are virtual political supporters of the Democratic Party which defends law and order in an expedient manner to appease the South, with blind eyes turned to slave-catching. I was intrigued by the short closing comments of the film as Solomon Northup attempted to gain justice after being freed, but ‘Seven For A Secret’ delves much deeper and it provides detailed and enlightening insights to pre-Civil War politics.

There seems little doubt the practice of kidnapping free blacks to sell them into slavery was rife and pretty much overlooked by the police and courts. Author Lyndsay Faye includes extracts from factual records to introduce chapters, and a number of these quote directly from Solomon Northup’s 1853 publication ‘12 Years A Slave’. Faye unerringly captures the violent and decedent nature of early New York where there were huge differences between the up and coming rich entrepreneurial classes and the poverty of the masses. Scenarios embrace problems with Irish immigrants as well as the black population and these are given substance via Timothy Wilde’s thoughts together with personal asides, reports and letters using sarcasm, cynicism, wit and humility. He can also be stupid, belligerent and angry, and I found it easy to empathize with his flawed but compassionate character.

Even though ‘Seven For A Secret’ is American literature it has a feel of Victorian melodrama, and there are evocative descriptions of bars, brothels etc. together with prostitution, abuse, murder etc. In addition to enlightening expediency of subject it is exciting and entertaining writing with heavy reliance on a form of slang ‘flash’ language evolving from those flocking to New York. All such features underpin the plots and sub-plots of ‘Seven For A Secret’ as Timothy Wilde sets out to right wrongs. If readers were impressed by the film ‘12 Years A Slave’ they will move up a gear and they will absolutely love this book.
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