Seven for a Secret

Written by Lyndsay Faye

Set in New York just before the Civil War, Seven for a Secret depicts a mystery involving the kidnapping of free Blacks for sale into slavery, murder, the power of the Democratic Party, and the related waves of Irish immigrants. The man who must untangle all these strands is a “copper star” of the newly formed NYPD, Tim Wilde.

Several aspects make Seven for a Secret an excellent read – a complex, unpredictable plot, wildly engaging characters, historical vividness, profound notions of family and friendship – but, in my opinion, Faye’s distinctive voice predominates. She’s skilled at the use of slang and styles of speech of the different classes and immigrants of 1846 New York.

But also, by using Tim Wilde as her narrator, Faye has imbued the novel’s voice with his emotionally appealing combination of lost, lonely and cynical joined to down-to-earth, ethically solid, and intellectually curious. Even a description of something as potentially mundane as a public fountain takes on the lively feel of Tim’s character: “Just south of us, the fountain that in the blazing summer had presented a dry bowl littered with tadpole corpses now sprayed malicious plumes of ice water in the faces of passersby… The ways of New York fountains are mysterious. Possibly sadistic.”