Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye. Publisher: Amy Einhorn Book/Putnam (September 2013). Mystery/Thriller. Hardcover. 444 pages. ISBN 978-0-399-15838-4.
“In the North, blacks are a free but steadily trod-upon race. And in the South, they are livestock.”
Second in a series which follows the newly formed NYPD and idealistic police officer Timothy Wilde. He’s clean cut. Follows the rules. Respects everyone and makes few judgments. A beguiling woman, Lucy Adams, arrives at Timothy’s office to declare her family missing. They’ve been kidnapped. She’s black and it’s a dangerous time even in the North. It’s 1846 and free blacks often were kidnapped as runaway slaves and brought down to the South. When I started this, I couldn’t help thinking of 12 Years a Slave and Solomon Northrup, a free black man from upstate New York captured while on a trip to Washington, D.C. and sold into slavery. Lyndsay Faye clearly researched this topic before she wrote the mystery. She features numerous quotes before each chapter [including Solomon Northrup]. Something happened when she sat down to put her ideas to the page. All that potential lost its impact.
Faye takes too long getting into this case and its emotional nature. I didn’t get attached to Lucy Adams. She doesn’t develop her character at all. If we’d learned more about her family and who she was it would’ve been an added bonus. Perhaps because this is the second in her mystery series, she barely allows the reader to learn about her hero Timothy Wilde and his daredevil, rebel rousing brother Valentine. Big mistake. Any strong mystery author knows that people should be able to pick up their books at any point in a series and comprehend what’s going on and follow the characters like a solid, entertaining procedural. There’s one strong scene where a free man fights a court when he’s been captured by slave catchers. Black men cannot testify in court. It’s heart wrenching. As far as a thriller goes and Lucy’s case? The prose could’ve been truly powerful in addition to delivering a worthwhile read.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Amy Einhorn Books.