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Timothy Wilde #2

Seven for a Secret

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Six months after the formation of the NYPD, its most reluctant and talented officer, Timothy Wilde, thinks himself well versed in his city’s dark practices — until he learns of the gruesome underworld of lies and corruption ruled by the "blackbirders," who snatch free Northerners of color from their homes, masquerade them as slaves, and sell them South to toil as plantation property.

The abolitionist Timothy is horrified by these traders in human flesh. But in 1846, slave catching isn’t just legal — it’s law enforcement.

When the beautiful and terrified Lucy Adams staggers into Timothy’s office to report a robbery and is asked what was stolen, her reply is, "My family." Their search for her mixed-race sister and son will plunge Timothy and his feral brother, Valentine, into a world where police are complicit and politics savage, and corpses appear in the most shocking of places. Timothy finds himself caught between power and principles, desperate to protect his only brother and to unravel the puzzle before all he cares for is lost.

445 pages, Hardcover

First published September 17, 2013

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Lyndsay Faye

26 books1,890 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 624 reviews
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,318 reviews4,843 followers
August 4, 2021

3.5 stars

In this second book in the 'Timothy Wilde' series, Tim is one of New York City's first police officers - on the trail of corrupt slave catchers. The book can be read as a standalone.


In the mid-1800s, New York City had hundreds of thousands of residents living in rotting wooden tenements amid abysmal sanitary conditions. Moreover, the population increased every day as immigrants - especially Irish fleeing from the 'Great Famine' - flowed into the city. Overcrowding and unemployment led to soaring crimes rates, so the NYPD was created to patrol the city's streets.

The Five Points in lower Manhattan was considered the most dangerous area for the first NYPD officers to patrol.

The early recruits - non-uniformed men who wore copper badges shaped like stars - were commonly called 'Copper Stars.'

Twenty-eight-year-old former bartender Timothy Wilde has been a Copper Star for six months. Like other Copper Stars Tim started out patrolling the city streets for 16 hours a day, but is now a detective - with a small office in The Tombs (the building housing the courts, jails, and police). Tim is 5'4" tall with a fire-scarred face and a yearning for his lost love, Mercy Underhill, who now lives in England.

The Tombs

Tim is thinking about his successful retrieval of a stolen painting when a beautiful black woman named Lucy Adams frantically rushes into his office, crying that her sister and son have been stolen.

It turns out that Lucy's sister Delia and son Jonas were taken by 'slave catchers' - bounty hunters who track down escaped slaves for a hefty fee. Lucy's family are free blacks from Albany, but slave catchers aren't above kidnapping free blacks and claiming they're runaway slaves.

Tim, who's sympathetic to the abolitionist cause, knows he has to work fast - or Delia and Jonas will be on a ship heading South. The Copper Star rounds up a few friends and his brother, Valentine Wilde - a tough Police Captain who's a big shot in the Democratic Party. Tim's posse storms the slave-catchers' lair, violence ensues, and Delia and Jonas are rescued.

The slave hunters, one of whom sustained a broken arm, are furious about their lost 'catch' and out for revenge. Moreover, the slave catchers have the support of the Democratic Party, which controls everything in New York City, including the police. The Party doesn't look kindly on anyone who helps blacks, which puts Valentine Wilde in a tricky position. Nevertheless, the Police Captain elects to surreptitiously aid Lucy and her relatives.

I don't want to give away spoilers, so I'll just say that an upcoming New York City election drive's the book's plot. Certain members of the Democratic Party have things to hide, and this leads to murder and disppearances in the black community.

As a result, Copper Star Tim Wilde - who's determined to find free black abductees - REALLY pisses off the Democratic elite. Thus Tim is repeatedly attacked, his office is vandalized, and his walls are defaced with vile language.

Nothing will stop the police officer however, until he figures out exactly what's going on.....and why.

The book portrays the horrific treatment of captured slaves, who are shackled to a wall in a cold, empty room - without even a bucket to pee in. The unfortunate blacks may also be beaten and raped, their white captors having no compunction about abusing them.

There's a glimmer of hope for runaways helped by the 'Underground Railroad' - a network that leads escaped slaves to Canada - but this is a very dangerous business.

The Underground Railroad

Slave owners in the South are depicted as well, men who SELL THEIR OWN CHILDREN - born to female slaves - when they need money for a new geegaw. Stories about vile slaveholders certainly aren't new, but they never cease to shock me.

In the course of the story, Tim navigates the ugly world of slave catching rings as he searches for the culprits responsible for murder and abduction.

Additional characters in the book include:
- Silkie Marsh - a glamorous brothel owner and Democratic benefactor who hates Tim.....and pines for his brother Valentine.
- George Washington Matsell - the Police Chief, who respects Tim but is frustrated by his defiance of the Democratic Party.
- Julius Carpenter - an educated black man who belongs to the Committee of Vigilance, which looks out for the black community.
- Mrs. Boehm - a widowed baker and Tim's landlady, who has a soft spot for her tenant.
- Bird - a kindchen (child) who was rescued from a life of prostitution.

Lyndsay Faye does a masterful job portraying the ambiance of mid-19th century New York, with its crowded streets filled with poor, starving vagrants. The authentic feel of the city is also enhanced by the characters' use of 'flash language' - a type of slang made up by criminals in London that became popular among the working classes.

The crowded city

The book, which has a well-wrought plot and shocking denouement, presents a dark picture of the racist, xenophobic atmosphere of the times. Nevertheless it's a good story, recommended to fans of historical mysteries.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,406 followers
December 15, 2014
I gushed over Lyndsay Faye's The Gods of Gotham, her debut foray into the dark heart of New York City 1845 and the violent and inauspicious origins of its first police force -- the copper stars. In its pages Faye strikes a remarkable balance between the thrilling and cerebral aspects of a good mystery and blends it with the rich detail and sumptuous atmosphere of the best historical fiction.

More than the mystery and the historical details, what really makes this series a great read is Faye's colorful cast of characters. Timothy Wilde is flawed and sympathetic. For all of his bravado and prickly self-righteousness, I have such a soft spot for Tim because I know how much room there is for him to grow into the man he's supposed to be.

But who I was really excited to get more of this time around is Tim's drinking, whoring, brawling older brother Valentine. Val is one of the most scurrilous, scandalous, lovable characters I've had the pleasure of reading in a long, long, time. While Tim is over-serious and pining after a woman he can't have, Valentine is a man of huge appetites and humor, chasing after his demons with alcohol and drugs and any warm body he can find to curl up next to. The two brothers together are a yin and yang of contradiction and chemistry. A study in the unbreakable bonds of brotherly love (and all the hate, hurt and simmering resentment contained therein).
The things my brother and I don't say could pave over the Atlantic Ocean.
I am a huge fan of Faye's prose style as well, but I can see how some readers might be put off as at times it does flirt with superfluous and 'purple'. But I lick all that historical detail up as if it were buttercream icing and it is a marvel to me how she can write about the most despicable, tragic things in such a beautiful, luscious way.

I don't think the mystery was quite as strong in this second book as in Gotham, and the ending felt a tad drawn out (twice I thought I had read the final sentence only to have to keep turning the pages). But other than those quibbles, this is a very strong second book in a series that I cannot wait to get more of.

September 26, 2016
I love this series. The author immerses us in the time period, gritty and ugly and seamy elements and all. Timothy Wilde is an incredibly engaging and sympathetic narrator. He has a powerful sense of justice, but at the same time, it's impossible for him not to be a little cynical, if not very aware that lofty ideals mean nothing in the world in which he inhabits.

Timothy is permanently scarred both physically and emotionally by the events of the 1st book, The Gods of Gotham, and he's slowly finding his place in life, in a life without his true love, Mercy Underhill. Timothy is also trying to revise his opinion of his brother,
Valentine, a very complicated--and in his own way endearing to this reader--character. For far too many years, he despised this older brother and had no respect for him. But in that weird way of families, he also loved him. Now he has to integrate both of those feelings, and realize that Valentine's bad habits are an aspect of his personality that he just has to deal with, like it or not. As Timothy's latest investigation puts him in great danger, he will realize just how much an ally and protector his brother is.

One of the reasons I like this series so much is the incredible lens of American history it brings to the table. Readers who have an interest in the city of New York and the tarnished history of the corrupt city government, think Tammany Hall, will appreciate how the author has integrated this story. Valentine is high up in the Democratic party, which is why he holds the enviable post as a station head and also the head of one of the firefighter units. He's viewed as a saint to the Irish immigrants because he helps them to get work and food in exchange for voting for the Democratic candidates.

The storyline resonated deeply with me, as it deals with slavery and the practice of capturing free blacks in the north and selling them into slavery. Timothy's best friend is a free man of color, Julius, who is a member of The Committee of Vigilance, an organization that helps to protect blacks from the blackbirders (a name for the slave-catchers). Julius comes to get his help when a young woman of color's family is kidnapped. Timothy is eager to help, his sense of justice appalled at the practice of slavery and the fact that blacks aren't even safe in New York. Of course, he's seen for himself that there are many terrible ways that racism that impact his beloved city. His assistance in the matter, gets him and his brother involved in a case that grows even darker as the layers pull away to reveal corruption that goes deep into the heart of the city and state government. The aspects of slavery and racial injustice really affected me, as much as the child prostitution and murder in the first book. The author is not shy about revealing these dark themes that are real parts of the history of our country. When Julius faces the slave-catchers without any real help in the legal courts, I don't think I even breathed the whole time. There are aspects of this book that are downright heartbreaking and bring home how profoundly wrong slavery was and the deep-seated racial prejudice that is a huge part of American history and current events even today.

This book is fantastically narrated, and I hope that my library gets the last book in the series. I can't imagine not being able to listen to it, because now the narrator has cemented himself in my mind in his voicing of Timothy and his brother.

I love Timothy. He has many traits that admire in a character and a person, to be honest. But I also love Valentine, despite his corrupt ways. His definitely a bad boy kind of character you can't help but fall for.

I had to give this five stars because there is so much to love about this book. I definitely recommend this series, and if you can get it on audiobook, please don't miss that opportunity.
Profile Image for Mary.
644 reviews1 follower
August 5, 2016
A disappointing second installment. Timothy Wilde seemed much more street-smart and competent in The Gods of Gotham, and the love-hate relationship between Timothy and his brother Valentine was over-used here. As with The Gods of Gotham, I found the tough-minded, politically savvy Valentine with all his personal demons much more interesting than the underdog Timothy. Timothy spent too much time pining for Mercy Underhill, and the way his thoughts were written continually reminded me that he was a male character written by a modern woman.
Profile Image for Ioana.
274 reviews341 followers
March 19, 2016
The second installment in Lyndsay Faye's excellently detailed, historically accurate series about the founding of the police force in antebellum NYC is a story about the illegal slave trade and systematic kidnapping of free blacks to be sold to the South for profit.

Having just finished a history of the period (see New York Exposed: The Police Scandal That Shocked the Nation and Launched the Progressive Era ), I am even more impressed with Faye's attention to detail and meticulous research. Usually I find that historical mysteries stray from politics, religion, and other "controversial" topics in order to broaden their appeal, but often this is a disservice to the era of their setting, because these issues are exactly what "set the tone" of the period. Fayes understands this, and does not shy away from depicting antebellum NYC in all its corrupt, political, zealous, squalid splendor. She does not proselytize, but rather brings the story into focus through believable characters that we come to love, despite their flaws, and perhaps even despite their perpetuation of a corrupt system.

The rest of my review is basically the same as for #1, Gods of Gotham , so I will not reprint. In short, the writing is beautiful, the characterizations are a bit overdone at times, the book is definitely "genre" fiction so most likely will not appeal to all readers, and so on. BUT Faye's aesthetic is brilliant, and this series is still my ticket to a full immersion in antebellum NYC.
Profile Image for Benjamin Thomas.
1,945 reviews266 followers
June 30, 2013
Six months after the events of The Gods of Gotham, where-in we get to participate in the 1845 founding and very early days of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), we catch up with young Timothy Wilde, a "Copper Star" in the new police force. He's a proven asset now, an excellent solver of crimes and finder of missing things, and has therefore been relieved of the necessity of walking a beat as a "rounder" in Ward 6. Rather, he is a sort of special "detective" (although that term won't be in use for another 5-10 years) and works on specific cases for the Chief of Police, George Washington Matsell. Tim Wilde shows off his detective skills early on but the major case of the novel surrounds the very historically accurate issue of kidnapping free blacks in the North and selling them back to the South as escaped slaves.

This novel is an outstanding second novel in what I surely hope will be a lengthy and successful series. The first in the series, The Gods of Gotham, was an excellent novel as well, but at times, it seemed as if the author was trying a little too hard to craft the perfect novel. Her writing style was a bit more "literary" in that first book and, indeed, it was nominated for a whole host of prizes. But it seemed that the parts of the story were crafted together a bit too neatly. This time around, she seems much more relaxed with her characters; she's come to know them well and she lets them play on her stage. And once again, her stage is phenomenal! All the color and vibrancy of the first book is here still, the sounds and smells of the population-exploding New York in the mid-19th century, the language of the streets and criminals, and the corruption of the politics...all the way to Tammany Hall.

And the characters! Wow what a smorgasbord of characters. Many historical figures populate the story and take active roles in it, including members of the New York Committee of Vigilance, founded in 1835 for the purpose of preventing the kidnapping of men, women, and children to be sold into slavery. The fictional characters could not be more multidimensional. I had noted in the first book how Tim's brother, Valentine (Val) was actually a bit more interesting than Tim and had wished that he had been afforded more stage time in that story. I got my wish this time around and his presence is delightful (not to mention critical to the plot). But the author is careful not to let him upstage our main character, Tim. This, my friends, is the sign of a maturing author. Indeed, every aspect of good story telling is present here: a great setting, a swiftly moving plot (including some wicked action scenes), excellent pacing, a complex plot/subplots without being confusing, an intriguing mystery with a couple of groovy plot twists, and truly fascinating characters. And especially important for an historical novel...she gets the facts right. The historical aspects are downright interesting; she writes them in such a way that made me want to look up further information about them. Tell me that's not a good sign.

A very enjoyable read. I'm ready for the next book in this series. Ms. Faye: please write faster!
Profile Image for Leo.
4,247 reviews385 followers
December 16, 2021
I read the first time in 2019 and the second in the beginning of 2020. I wasn't a huge fan of the series those time. But I've thought of it sometimes randomly and each time I've seen any of the books at a second hand store I had to fight the urge to but and try again. I'm so glad I finally gave it a second try. Engaging plot and interesting characters that make it an intriguing read overall
Profile Image for Wolf.
102 reviews4 followers
August 6, 2013
'Seven For A Secret' is good enough to disappoint.

It is clear that the author, Lyndsay Faye, has real talent. The writing is sometimes excellent. Too often, however, it veers into being irritating, overly worked or overly arch.

The idea behind the novel, the way the law was used in the mid-nineteenth century US to return runaway black slaves to the American south and how certain slave catchers were none to fussy about whether they collected freemen or runaways, is an excellent one. Her central policeman character, with strong abolitionist tendencies but trapped in a world where the kidnap of black men and women is legally sanctioned, a good one to explore the moral issues that this raises. But sadly, due to a number of issues, the book too often misses its mark.

Part of the problem is that we are about 150 pages in to the novel before the main plot really begins to motor, with an unexpected dead body turning up, apparently incriminating our main characters. It is often a sign that an author realises that the start of a book is weak when there is a prologue. Here we get one that hints at the beginning of the main story before we go back to deal with a sub-plot about the theft of a painting which is largely divorced from the rest of the book and could have been usefully cut.

The lack of plot line to push us forward gives the reader time to puzzle over other aspects of the story and its telling which might be best left not thought about. Early on, for example, the policeman central character, and narrator of the story, meets an Englishman acting as a butler in a New York household. He is 'doing his level best London accent' but the narrator immediately identifies him as coming from Bristol. That might work as an incidental detail for an American audience, but it seems hard for anyone familiar with the West Country inflected Bristol accent (with its habit of sticking an 'L' on the end of vowels) to see that mistake being made or, if the family hiring the man are genuinely so tone deaf to accents, why the butler felt the need to disguise the accent in the first place. Given that the idea of a received pronunciation 'posh' accent was largely a nineteenth century invention, would anyone even have cared?

Another irritation, for me at least, was too often the style of writing. Whilst sometimes very well told, it too often becomes affected. Lyndsay Faye is clearly influenced by the dry laconic hardboiled style of detective fiction created by masters such as Raymond Chandler and much aped since then. The narrator's descriptions are peppered with witty comments in this style. Very often, I wished he (and Faye) would give them a rest.

Too often the writing and its grasp on character resembles something that we might encounter in creative writing workshops or American indie films but not real life, as I've encountered it. At one stage, the narrator policeman tells a character, from whom he is taking a statement,
"'I detest writing police reports,' I admitted... 'Particularly when I'm recording conscienceless things. It's as if - I can't explain it. As if when I officially document them, they have to stay with me. Or I give them permanence, or ... I know it doesn't make sense.' ...
"'As if you're deliberately memorializing something that oughtn't to be remembered at all,' Delia said softly."
It strains for the poetic and the significant but, for me at least, misses the plausible. I've met police officers and I've met victims of crime and none of them have ever suggested they've felt like that. It makes even less sense the more one thinks about it: this is the same man who, we are expected to believe, does write these events down and in staggering detail, as the very text we are currently reading (he makes reference to the pages of the manuscript of the previous story).

It does have to be admitted that, once the main story gets going, the book improves greatly. The various elements of mid-nineteenth century New York, from machine politics to Irish refugees to corrupt policemen are artfully handled, neatly sketched, none outstaying their welcome and all serving a thoroughly entertaining story. By that stage I had been close to giving up, however.

The mystery itself and its resolution are a bit disappointing. An acute reader is likely to have guessed one more significant revelations before the central character. The explanation for the mysterious death, that powers the plot of the later two-thirds of the book, is best not considered too closely: alternative courses of action to the one chosen are too obvious. That said, it would be wrong not to acknowledge that the later part of the book is entertaining.

All in all, a generous three stars.
Profile Image for Paul.
888 reviews69 followers
September 10, 2013
Brilliant Historical Crime Fiction

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.

Profile Image for We Are All Mad Here.
486 reviews36 followers
May 25, 2021
It always amazes me when someone says they'd like to go back to [insert any twentieth century decade] because life was so much simpler then. This is how you can identify a person who has never read any historical fiction whatsoever, because I have read quite a bit of it and I am convinced there was no time, ever, in the history of humanity, when things were "simpler."

That said, I really don't get an 1845 feeling from this book, whatever an 1845 feeling is. The facts and the words and the period details are there (at least, as far as I know), but something about the way the first-person narrator tells the story - maybe it's his syntax, I really don't know - feels very modern. The mystery itself was interesting and engaging enough, and I appreciated the highlighting of a part of American history of which many are unaware, specifically, the kidnapping of free people (in the north) to sell as slaves (to the south).

This was fine; all the same, I'm glad it's a trilogy and not a longer series.
Profile Image for Barb.
1,168 reviews126 followers
August 6, 2013
I found 'Seven For a Secret' available through the Vine Program and thought it sounded like a great story. I soon realized it was the second book in a new series, of course I wanted to read the series in order. So, I picked up the first book 'The Gods of Gotham' and as it turns out I was pleased that 'Seven for a Secret' led me to 'The Gods of Gotham'.

I read 'The Gods of Gotham' immediately before starting 'Seven For a Secret' I thought that would be the best way to keep the characters vivid in my memory. Unfortunately reading the two books in succession made the differences between them stark and glaring.

In 'The Gods of Gotham' Timothy Wilde is a clever young man who struggles with his feelings for his older brother, he's conflicted by equal parts admiration and resentment (boarding on loathing). He's spent many years working in a pub and is skilled at discerning personal habits, geography and occupation from the way customers are clothed, groomed and speak. When he becomes a copper star, one of the first policemen in NYC, he puts his powers of observation and reasoning to use, solving crime and apprehending thieves. He's a wonderful character and a protagonist I was looking forward to following through a series of books. I felt the same way about his brother, Valentine, who is a very different character, he struggles with his own inner demons but is all the more interesting because of them. In 'the Gods of Gotham' the friction between them was lively, clever and believable and it added to the depth of the story.

The first difference I noticed between the two novels was Tim's personality and his relationship with Valentine. Tim isn't at all street savvy at the beginning of this book. When we leave him at the end of 'Gotham' he's sharp, clever, quick. The Tim that greets us in 'Seven' seems like he may have suffered from a concussion or a brain injury. He's somewhat oblivious to the politics and inner workings of the city. He was fascinated by the pawn shops for instance. He also frequently says things that only an oaf would say, and is surprised by things that should have been known and understood, like the other copper stars being envious of him.

His relationship with his brother is also less realistic and more like a comedy routine peppered with unlikely insults, ludicrous observations and inane dialogue. At one point Tim tells Val to bugger off, then says the whole Democratic Party can bugger off, then asks why they are talking about the Party? It reminded me a little of Abbot and Costello, who are wonderful but between these characters this kind of silliness is out of place.

This new Tim also has a flair for the melodramatic when expressing his feelings and describing the world he lives in. As well as a tendency to describe things in the superlative; the world being splintered to pieces, his being splintered into slivers of ash, his being pulled from the edge of mental ruin, moth holes dotting the heart and mind, hating himself for accidentally tearing out a tendril of someone's hair. This wasn't the Tim I got to know and love in 'Gods'.

Even with the many differences in the writing and characterizations I would have continued reading. The issue that was make or break if for me was that several pivotal points in the story didn't hold up to scrutiny. I don't want to give too much away but there was a choice that was made which defied logic and had serious consequences that could have been avoided with a small dose of common sense. Later a character takes care of the aftermath in a way that wasn't very believable and the way the story progresses from there feels very off track. Another thing that I found distracting was the recapping of the story at various points when the story itself wasn't very complicated and not a whole lot had happened yet.

Overall I was disappointed by this second installment in the series. I'm not sure if I will try this author again but I'm glad that I found and read 'The Gods of Gotham' which I really enjoyed and would recommend.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,601 reviews1,669 followers
February 25, 2022
See, this is why I was asking how many five-star reviews in a month is too many, because I kind of want to give this one five stars, too! Great mystery, great character work (brothers! <3 <3), great second book in a trilogy (a rare thing!), impeccable historical fiction. This is the main book I read while on vacation last week, and because I was distracted by friends and food and reality TV, I read it over six days instead of probably the two I normally would have taken; it was slow going for the first four days, and it's hard to tell if that was due to the book or my circumstances. Because I rounded up on the last book, I'm going to round down on this one. I can always come back later.

I don’t want to talk about the plot because things get a little complicated, but this elaborates on some things I really needed to be elaborated on after the last book, mainly the situation regarding slavery. The Civil War is twenty years down the road as this novel takes place, but Faye writes it so that you feel it coming. Slavery the institution affects everyone in this book, and the way that Faye writes about the history of it is unlike any book I’ve read before. She also does good character work on Timothy, and on his relationship with his brother. The mystery is twisty and emotional. I continue to love the period appropriate dialogue. (A lot of characters talk in Flash.)

I have wishes and hopes for book three, but I’ll keep them to myself for now.

[4.5 stars]
Profile Image for Albert.
1,425 reviews32 followers
November 4, 2013
Lyndsay Faye won me over with her novel The Gods of Gotham. A mystery crime thriller set in early New York prior to the Civil War. Seven for a Secret is the second novel in what I hope will be a long series of tales.

The NYPD is only six months old and Copper Star Timothy Wilde is still recovering emotionally from his dealings with the serial child murderer in The Gods of Gotham. He is on shift at the station when a disheveled and distraught beautiful young woman staggers in crying out that she has been robbed.

...Most would say it was luck's, or Fate's. Or even God's. But I can't help but think of her voice that way now. The way it tugged a man, could wrench a steamer off course into cruel shoals.
"You can certainly trust us to try," I said gently. "Just tell it to me like a story, and I'll fix this."
Her eyes met mine. They'd gone pale as slate.
"There's been a robbery."
"What's been stolen?" I asked.
"My family," she answered me.

With that Timothy is plunged into the hidden world of slave catching. Not only was kidnapping free black men, women and children in the North under the guise of re-capturing slaves legal, it was considered part of law enforcement. The accused slave would then have to prove themselves to be freemen or be taken back South to be sold.

Lucy Adams is a beautiful young woman whose father was white and mother black. She passes mostly as a white Northern woman but under closer scrutiny she cannot hide her heritage. Coming home she finds her home raided and her sister and son taken. She doesn't know where to turn and asks the newly formed NYPD to help. They cannot because no law has been broken. But young officer Timothy Wilde feels a moral obligation to help Lucy and throws himself headlong into a cesspool of lies and human trafficking.

His fellow officers will turn on him as well as the political climate of the time. Still he forges on to find the stolen family only to find a much larger and crueler scheme unfold. Surrounded by the players from Gods of Gotham, Tim battles for the moral sense of what is right and wrong. And finds himself on the wrong side of the law he is sworn to uphold.

An extremely well written second novel featuring the young Copper Star Timothy Wilde.
Profile Image for Ellen.
219 reviews
April 7, 2014
I seem to be in the minority among reviewers here, because I liked "Seven for a Secret" better than "Gods of Gotham." I'm giving this four stars (as I did "Gods"), but I'd consider it a 4.2 or something. I think the (near) lack of the Mercy Underhill plotline helped things along for me. Timothy does tend to bumble around making an ass of himself, but he does it in as self-aware a way as possible. I find that quality believable and sympathetic - I'm not sure how one is supposed to become completely sharp and streetwise if you lack a certain brashness and confidence. I also really appreciated the fact that Timothy and the others get things wrong once in a while.

I am rather glad to have this one back at the library, as I started mentally belting out Counting Crows every time I saw the cover. :)
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,475 reviews259 followers
February 11, 2021
Seven for a Secret (Timothy Wilde #2) by Lyndsay Faye is a pretty great historical mystery. I wasn't at all familiar with this author or series going in, but I'm glad I decided to give it a try. As it turns out, it's a decent standalone. I particularly enjoyed just how detailed and lived in Faye's 1846 NYC felt. I usually associate great world-building with fantasy and sci-fi, but Faye's historical real-world based story is just as great in those terms. I think I'm going to have to try the rest of the series soon.
Profile Image for Karen ⊰✿.
1,366 reviews
November 29, 2018
This was a pretty good sequel that delved into the practice of the time of taking escaped slaves, or freed slaves - and then pretending they weren't freed- from the Northern States of America and returning them to the Southern states for a fee. It is a period of American history I am unfamiliar with and so was quite interesting, and appaulling.
The story further develops Timothy and his brother Val, although the pace was certainly much slower than book one and not quite as enjoyable. Still a very good piece of historical fiction and I'm sure to read the next in the series in the hope that we will find out more about Mercy and Bird than we did in this book.
Profile Image for K..
3,595 reviews1,001 followers
October 14, 2017
Trigger warnings: murder, kidnapping, slavery, racism, suicide, self harm, mentions of having been in a fire.

4.25 stars.

I remember the first book in this series taking me FOREVER to get into, but for some reason with this one I was hooked on the very first page.

It's a pretty heartbreaking story at times, dealing with the way that people of colour were treated in 1840s New York. It covers the white protagonist's realisation of just how bad things are, when people of colour can be kidnapped and taken to the South just on suspicion of being escaped slaves, and his realisation that he's an abolitionist.

But at its heart, it's a crime novel. Timothy is a copper star in the newly founded New York Police Force, but he speaks flash, the language of the streets. He's caught between the two worlds, caught between wanting to help people and his job.

Basically? The characters are great. The writing is great. The subject matter is heartbreaking and confronting. But ultimately? It's one hell of a story with a wonderful amount of diversity, given that it's historical fiction.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,405 reviews988 followers
September 5, 2013
First of all thank you so much for the unexpected pleasure of an advanced copy of this novel through my door one day. A bookworms dream…

When I started reading this terrific story , I had two thoughts – firstly I realised that it was a sequel to Gods of Gotham, a book I have had in my peripheral vision for a while but had yet to get around to – and secondly that nothing in the world was going to stop me reading this now, even though my pedantic side would usually have forced me to read Book One in advance. Certainly though I will have to get a copy of “Gods” as soon as possible because now I REALLY want to read it. Seven for a Secret is absolutely fine to read as a standalone book and there are no spoilers for book one but enough information to give you background.

So this instalment sees the return of Timothy and Valentine Wilde and another case that will find them investigating the dark heart of New York. As a member of the newly formed Police Force, Timothy gets drawn into the predicament of one Lucy Adams, who’s family has disappeared and this leads him to the heart of a mystery involving Slave catchers and their human trade.

I loved the flowing and old school prose in this book…shooting you straight into the heart of the story, with a terrific historic feel and a genuine sense of authenticity you are soon immersed into the ongoing events right along with Timothy. A terrific character, he is bound and determined to save Lucy’s loved ones despite having to step on political toes and finding himself in all kinds of danger. I particularly liked Valentine as a character – I’m looking forward to going back in time (even further!) to see what he was like in the first novel. Both of the brothers in fact…

The mystery element is superbly done. I genuinely had no idea what was going on a lot of the time – Seven for a Secret (never to be told) is a perfect title. Lucy may not be revealing everything, and corruption abounds. The “Blackbirders” are a frightening set indeed…kidnapping black people from the North and selling them into slavery down South…Timothy will need all his wits about him. Various supporting characters make up the whole and it is a page turner of the highest order.

Overall, beautiful writing, a wonderful story, a piece of History right there on the page and as soon as I have a minute my local bookshop will find me on their doorstep demanding a copy of “Gods of Gotham”. And I wait with my usual problem of chronic impatience to see what Ms Faye brings us next….
Profile Image for Sally.
18 reviews14 followers
January 2, 2014
I wish I could more eloquently put into words just how much I adored this novel. It truly came to life in my hands, and I could. not. put. it. down. Faye has a way with prose that is unbelievably engaging, witty, humorous, colorful, and at times, heart-breaking. I think she must have done an intense amount of research to bring to life the horrors of NYC in the late 1800s, the fears of free African Americans as they fought for their already hard-earned freedom, the inhumanity of slave catchers, and the lawlessness that ran in abundance.

Faye follows the life of Timothy Wilde, a young Copper Star in a newly formed police force. Wilde becomes intertwined with a mysterious black family after a beautiful woman named Lucy begs him to help find her sister and son who have been captured by "slave hunters" who kidnap free or runaway slaves to sell them.

Readers are taken through a wild ride, and I was happy to be there for every minute. I fell in love with a whole host of characters, despised a great deal of them, cried for some, and laughed honestly.

I would suggest reading "Gods of Gotham" prior to this novel. I did not, and there were a few plot lines I was unaware of while reading. However, I don't think it's necessary to read them in sequence if you happen to grab this book first. I look forward to reading the prequel as soon as I can get my hands on it!
Profile Image for Donna.
3,880 reviews7 followers
October 9, 2015
What a fun book. I loved this and the fact that it was historical fiction was an extra bonus. I was taken for a ride. I didn't have to think or question or quiet my pet peeves. It was so enjoyable..........and since I did the audio, I have to say KUDOS to the narrator, Steven Boyer. He did a phenomenal job. I cannot wait to read the other 2 books in this series.

The characters were fun, surprising, and oh so different. I loved that. Valentine and Timothy are brothers and they couldn't be more different, but they were tightly connected. I loved the dialog between them. Sometimes it had me laughing out loud and other times, I was saying, "Ahhhhhh."

5 stars because I could read this again.

Profile Image for Jill.
2,183 reviews80 followers
September 20, 2013
This book is the second in the historical police detective series that began with The Gods of Gotham. It picks up six months after the events of the first book, and continues to follow the career of 28-year-old Timothy Wilde, a member of the newly formed “copper stars,” or New York City Policemen.

The story begins on Valentine’s Day in 1846, when Tim and his colleague Jakob Piest are approached by Lucy Adams, a desperate woman claiming her family has been stolen. She is African-American, though hardly recognizable as such, and she explains that her son and her sister who was babysitting him have been taken by slave catchers. These “blackbirders” common to Antebellum America specialized in kidnapping blacks, whether legally free or not, and sending them South. The capture of fugitive "slaves" was of course legal at this time in American history, but the more unscrupulous and greedy slave catchers did not make a distinction between a black who was free and one who had escaped from slavery. The author reports in her Afterword:

Overwhelming evidence indicates that the practice of kidnapping free blacks for the purpose of selling them as alleged slaves was common, systematized, and almost entirely overlooked by courts and law enforcement.”

As Tim interprets the situation in New York:

This city plays with its residents a mortal game of musical chairs... There is simply not enough here. Not enough work, enough food, enough walls with roofs topping them. ...there aren’t enough chairs for the tens of thousands tearing their way into the parlor for a try. And if only one seat out of a dozen is marked FOR COLOREDS, and that identical seat is the only one marked FOR IRISH... Then it’s a question of who pitches whom on the hardwood first.”

Lucy is desperate for Tim to find her family before they are sent South into slavery; violated in other ways; or even killed. He has an advantage in doing detective work, because people tend to open up to him. He says, “Where stories are concerned, I am a man-shaped safety deposit box.”

But Tim has his own difficulties: he doesn’t mind angering his boss to obtain social justice, nor alienating the Democratic party, which controls the police. This attitude tends to put Tim repeatedly in danger himself. Also, his brother Val plays an important role in both the party and the police, so Tim's behavior doesn't just hurt himself.

As for Val, he is truly the star of the series, in my view. He is open-minded, interesting, brave, and has a lot more street smarts than his hapless idealistic brother. Tim knows Val’s worth: “He [is] my entire context.” He won’t admit it to Val, and only rarely admits it to himself. But we the readers know his worth, because it is largely because of Val that I want to keep following this series!

Evaluation: This is an appealing historical crimes series with a social conscience, and with characters that grow dearer to the reader as the series progresses.
Profile Image for Marina.
909 reviews167 followers
September 24, 2015
Seven for a Secret is great sequel to the Gods of Gotham, although I'm not sure if it's a better book-- some things were better, others not so much.

I really like Timothy Wilde, he's not a perfect man, but he's good enough to care about the underdogs. He spends a little too much time pitying and being a touch too sentimental -- for a man of his time anyway. I do love his relationship with Valentine. He is such a little brother; and their little spats, and fights, can't hide how much they care about each other. Especially Valentine willing to throw everything he's worked so hard for to keep his baby alive *sniffs*.

The plot was certainly convoluted and tangled, there's so much historical facts at play though. The stark racism of that era is so appalling, but I think Faye handles it well.

There's also an interesting cast of characters and I was sad to see some of them go, and certainly spilled some tears over Julius.

I don't much like to see Tim mooning over Mercy, for goodness sake man, move on. And I don't think it's fair of her to dangle him on a thread either. Let him go, woman. I hope he moves on with the certain someone, but considering the premise for the next book, I hope it doesn't turn into a triangle.

I liked the resolution of this book much better than the fist. Silkie Marsh is such a wonderfully despicable character, I kind of adore her.

Either way, highly recommend this to fans of mystery and history alike.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
239 reviews13 followers
January 24, 2019
So after I finished The Gods of Gotham, I couldn't stop myself from reading book 2 right away because I'm obsessed with Timothy Wilde. Luckily, this book did not disappoint! This installment is just as painstakingly researched, gritty, tense, and well-paced as the first, and now I'm just really sad that there's only one more book to go.

As far as the story, reading this one felt pretty timely, as this mystery focuses on the hideous institution of slavery in the 1840's, with Timothy facing off against "slavecatchers", politicians who value votes over anything else, and of course the infamous brothel owner from book one. I recently visited an exhibit at the California African American Museum about slavery in the West, and it featured many court cases that really rang true when reading Faye's story; free African-Americans forced to prove their freedom without being allowed to testify for themselves, mistaken identity, and the complications that arise when a person is viewed as property in one state and not another. I thought Faye did an excellent job capturing the complex time period populated with heartbreaking stories that are hard but necessary to read.

Overall, I love this series and I'm 100% moving along to book three even though I'm terrified. I'm still obsessed with Timothy and Val and also extremely worried about them.
Profile Image for Kate Sherwood.
Author 55 books732 followers
September 27, 2015
Audiobook version - narrator isn't flashy, but toward the end of the book when a character appeared somewhere he had no reason to be, I knew who it was immediately, even before the text identified him, because of the voice the narrator used. Not a caricature, not a weird accent, just a slightly different voice used for that character. Well done, I'd say!

The story itself? I'm giving an extra star for Valentine, a rare example of an alpha-done-right. Tim somehow got stupid and naive between the two books, and that was annoying. And I was a bit uncomfortable about the white-saviour motif... in the first book, Tim had to save the day because the victims were children, but in this book? The black characters seemed low on agency, mostly just waiting around for Timothy to do stupid things and get everyone in trouble. (At which point, of course, Valentine would come rescue him, so... that was okay! Because Valentine is about seven times more interesting than Tim). And there wasn't too much Mercy in this one, so that was good.

So, a star for the narration, a star for Valentine. The rest of the story? Disappointing, to me.
Profile Image for Jersy.
730 reviews58 followers
February 8, 2020
I just should stop buying books on a whim that I wasn't planning on getting. I read a few pages in the bookstore and really liked the writing style, especially the humor, and was under the impression that this really wanted to utilize the time period it is set it.
I was wrong about that. My biggest problem with the book is that the characters, especially the good guys, feel like they're from our century: they talk like modern people, they have moral codes like modern people... If you don't mind this disconnect, you can probably enjoy this book, but it was really distracting for me.
I also couldn't connect to Timothy: I liked his voice, but he's too sentimental and so forced to be likable and a "nice guy".
The story idea was ok and the author tried to teach some historic events in a natural way, but since the whole book didn't feel natural to me I couldn't enjoy it much.
The scenes that actually advanced the plot also sometimes lost me, the strength of the author seems to be in the more quite scenes.
I definitely see an audience for this, but it isn't me and it probably isn't people who read a lot of historical fiction.
Profile Image for Michelle.
614 reviews1 follower
September 8, 2013
This book satisfies readers looking for complex characters, an intriguing mystery, a richly drawn setting, and exquisite language. There are such beautiful sentences in this story that made me pause and reread. Normally I don't have time to reread books, but I am tempted to revisit this one.

I thought Gods of Gotham was too slow and kind of dull in moments (even though well done), but Seven for a Secret moved along at a better pace.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
151 reviews
May 22, 2014
The setting is interesting, and we stay located inside the world. But this is a puppet show. Fine for a beach read (but do wait for the paperback) but otherwise a bit of a toss off in terms of character, depth of mystery, etc. Heavy on the melodrama, and the actual craft - the sentence to sentence writing - is frequently difficult to suffer through.
Profile Image for Lia.
63 reviews12 followers
January 29, 2014
Disappointed. Timothy was turning into overly sentimental and whiny person. Those love letters were so corny and I am tired of his fascination to Silky Marsh.

This book is about the love triangle spiced up with some mystery. (Or is it love square?)
Profile Image for Snooty1.
441 reviews8 followers
January 16, 2019
Lyndsay Faye...if you write any book, I will read it!
This book is even better than the first. I am crazy in love with Timothy...and Valentine, but mostly Timothy.
He is so absolutely honest in his thoughts, and filled with such integrity and loyalty that I want to hug him and smother him with love.
His relationship with others and his insight is absolutely spectacular.
(I keep forgetting he's a fictional character).
I am actually terrified to read the next book, because if something happens to any of the characters I love I don't know what I'll do.

This book is a continuation of the first set 6 months after the first book ends.
Mercy is in London (good riddance, Timothy needs time to heal) Sweet Bird, The baker landlady,
Valentine continues to be over the top and fantastic in every way, and New York City, the star of the show, is the same...dark, dirty and dangerous.
This story centers around "slave catchers" in New York that take free people and sell them into slavery. It's as terrifying as it sounds.
A woman runs to Timothy telling him that her family has been kidnapped...and that is how our tale starts and Timothy with his mind and integrity continues to help others. He is a pillar and a voice to those that need it. We meet an underground society set to protect citizens from a life of servitude. (Julius is back!!!)

READ THESE BOOKS! They are amazing. Even the evil characters are fantastic.
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