Did you enjoy Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist”? Have you been searching for the next great NYC historical mystery ever since? Well, I have three extraordinary novels to recommend: the Timothy Wilde trilogy by Lyndsay Faye consists of “Gods of Gotham”, “Seven for a Secret”, and “The Fatal Flame”.
The three books focus on investigations in the 1840s by Tim Wilde, a member of New York City’s newly minted police force: the “copper stars”. A colorful cast of supporting characters is led by Tim’s rapscallion brother Valentine, brothel owner Silky Marsh, Tim’s love Mercy Underhill, and his protectee Bird Daly.
Author Lyndsay Faye has clearly done extensive research, not only into the history of mid-19th century New York, but also on the issues of Irish immigration, slum landlords, child exploitation, working conditions in factories, the plight of free Blacks in the North, and Tammany Hall politics. Her creative use of imagery, and the slang language of the day (“flash patter”, the Irish called it), lend a genuine sense of authenticity to these atmospherically rich novels. The dialog can be colorful and witty at times and certainly heart-breaking at others.