x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Book review: Lyndsay Faye's second novel examines vestiges of slave trade

Seven for a Secret, the second novel in Lyndsay Faye’s detective series, finds Timothy Wilde tackling a case involving slavery

The second novel in Lyndsay Faye's popular New York detective series finds Timothy Wilde still struggling to comprehend the moral depravity of the residents of Manhattan's Sixth Ward in the mid-19th century. A "copper star" in the newly formed police service, Wilde, who lost all his worldly possessions in a city fire along with half of his face, is the only member of the force tasked with solving crimes "after the fact" by new-fangled detective work rather than simply walking the streets to keep order.

He is just congratulating himself on his "competence" having recovered a stolen painting - a neat device that allows the reader to see Wilde in action early on - when a well-dressed woman called Lucy Adams (or is it Wright?) turns to him for help after her sister and son, both "free blacks", are abducted by slave traders to be sold south. A complex plot examining the last vestiges of the slave trade then unravels against a backdrop of the politics of abolitionism. Faye's characterisation and depiction of a grimy New York make this a rollicking read.