Archive for the ‘Detective stories’ Category

April returns home to find her apartment ransacked.

Her spirit could not get much lower as the probable love of her life died just a week before.  Interestingly her mail was not disturbed by the vandals, but it was just as disturbing as Peter’s death.  In the pile was a manila envelop from him, postmarked the day before his death.  Inside was the mysterious ring of Remaliha, with a note urging her to trust no one, not even authorities.  With the state of her apartment: note that.

Both Egyptologists, she and Peter shared love and respect for antiquities which had grown into love for each other.  As teaching summer school drew to a close at Columbia, April was approached by a suave Nathan Hayes to accompany him on an assignment to Luxor to pursue the ring with anachronistic hieroglyphs on the band…her ring!  Despite her better judgment and harassing phone calls, she decided to go on the adventure, all funded by Hayes’ client.  In a series of desperate situations, April doggedly pursues the mystery of the ring.  As the chase comes to a conclusion, roles twist and turn, and the ring rollicks through the desert with all the characters in tow.  If you are looking for a tense mystery read, this is it!  It is a page-turner, easy to imagine on the big screen.




I must shrug on a mourning dress and pin on a brooch to commemorate Timothy Wilde, whose demise I grieve.

The third book of the Timothy Wilde mysteries has drawn its last extraordinary breath, having shared the stories of the New York City coppers starring Tim and Val Wilde, with Mercy Underhill, Elene Boehm, Silkie Marsh and Bird Daly.

In the first novel, The Gods of Gotham, the fledgling police force, powered by George Washington Matsell the police magistrate, served as night patrols throughout the city and waterfront. The police chief was a real New York presence. In 1859 Matsell published Vocabulum, or, The rogue’s lexicon: compiled from the most authentic sources. In various scenes throughout the trilogy he made notes of the “flash” language of the streets that Tim, Val and other characters spoke throughout the books. (Each novel has a handy glossary of flash terms).

Tim, he and his older brother being orphans due to a barn fire, was a talented bartender who had scrapped together savings with his sights on a future with lovely Mercy Underhill. Ironically the gigantic fire of 1845 changed his wealth, face and profession. His brother Val, a brilliant but well-rounded addict to anything, snagged Tim a job as a new policeman for the Five Point area, Ward 6, of New York, pretty much the armpit of the 1840s city. Child prostitutes, disease, starving Irish immigrants/rats, and ever-present corruption were punctuated with a new horror, the butchering of child-mabs.

Seven for the Secret, the second novel of the trilogy, peeked under the vermin-infested and opportunistic rocks of New York of the 1840s, this time exposing a hugely successful slave “recovery” scam carried out by blackbirders who captured free blacks and ship them off to a period, or lifetime, of slavery. As he and his partner sloshed through the crime, Timothy Wilde tenaciously puzzled through the murder of a beautiful black woman. The slavery ring proved lethally entangling and the murder exasperating to solve. Tim’s powers of deduction were noticed in the department. His experience sharpened him without hardening him, quite a delicate character development maneuver by Lindsay. Even though he did not know how to title this copper job, Tim was excellent at “deciphering unsolved mayhem”.

With the May 2015 release of The Fatal Flame Tim and his colorful partner, Jakob Piest, are on the trail of Ronan McGlynn who is turning an amazing profit sweet-talking lovely Irish maidens right off the ships into “manufacturing” jobs that are hellish introductions into prostitution. His description of their natural affinity for the profession leaves even readers feeling sullied. McGlynn was not the brain behind the operations. Tim wanted the mastermind.

Faye’s power of description is superlative. For instance I would recognize Piest anywhere. Lynday’s description of him as “honest as the frayed cuffs on his frock coat” and “resembles your friendlier breed of barnacle and talks like a knight-errant” set the stage for entertaining images each time he appeared. Add to that his physical description: “Mr. Piest’s bulging blue eyes and absent chin admittedly resemble a carp’s.” Throw in his heroism and the reader has another well-inked character to love. It makes a reader want to luxuriate in Lyndsay’s prose, rereading full pages and even chapters for the soothing salve of delicate word choice.

I found that flash had an allure or its own. The brothers, mabs, and new hawks use the language as it was intended, to conceal: “She was his peculiar…though she savvies now he was naught but a rabbit-sucker.“ Flash wording staccato in a dissonant rhythm. “…”I’m as prime on the muscle as any professional milling cove.”

New York City 1848 was the site of horrid employment conditions for women seamstresses. The lucky ones were employed in legitimate shops. Nonetheless the conditions and wages were unregulated and minimal. Malcontent male tailors’ livelihoods were threatened by their competition. Even worse was “outsourcing” to huddles of women who sewed in extreme conditions with little light, little food with desperate lives with emotional and mental instability. Lives of many of these women interweaved into the narration, with particular emphasis on an educated and spirited young woman who was willing to strike, Sally Woods. Seen as a spurned woman and an unsuccessful trouble causer, she was the first suspect when the fires at Alderman Robert Symmes’s properties started.

In a previous novel the alderman had offered to “take care” of Tim as he was tied to a chair in Tammany Hall. Now Symmes tried to bribe Val Wilde with his newest group of virginal Irish prostitutes, right off the boat. Val may have had his vices, but he was cavalier and full of integrity. Furious, Val determined to run against the alderman in the upcoming election.

Shrouded in mystery, Tim Wilde’s unrequited love, Mercy Underhill, returned from England and boarded with actors who hovered about her, sensing her fragility. When the first fire began on Pell Street at a Symmes establishment “saturated with tenants” Tim found traumatized Dunla Duffy watching the conflagration. Since Mercy adored helping the less fortunate, Tim asked her to care for Dunla. A symbiotic choice, as Mercy was a brilliant and charitable heroine, riddled with her own demons, not unlike her father in Gods of Gotham.

Fires at Symmes’ properties continued. Tim’s investigations lead him to questioning Sally Woods, whose intelligence and glibness memorized him. With all the evidence pointing toward her, she was eventually jailed at the Tomb. Seemingly unrelated events and people continued to bounce around Tim’s head and escaped into his doodles. He sketched a memorable personality into a warp and woof of the crime’s resolution.

I found myself searching the Internet for Tammany Hall, The Fifty-first Street Catholic orphanage, copper stars, the great fires of New York City, blackbirding, Five Points and its Old Brewery. Hats off to Lyndsay for piquing interest in New York City history. A doff for her thorough research into the Copper Stars first years. A curtsey for the authentic voices. Brava to the finely executed characterizations of Tim, Val, Jim, Mercy, Dunly, Mrs. Grimshaw, Symmes, Piest, Elene, Sally and all.

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

Author Lyndsay Faye

May the “gentle chain saws” of editing ever be in Ms Faye’s favor. Her fans, current and to come, will twitch for her new ventures. Is there a hope of resurrection or reincarnation of Detective Timothy Wilde? Perhaps not, but I can luxuriate in the re-reading. And readers, please read prologues and epilogues, just sayin’.

Joan Enders has reviewed new books for 29 years, was the recent librarian of Robert A. Long High School, and now is a trainer for Follett School Solutions and director of the Family History Center in Longview.

[For reading to augment your reading Faye’s trilogy, readers might consider the nonfiction title CITY OF WOMEN Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860 by Christine Stansell].