In 1840s New York City, a raging fire destroys bartender Timothy Wilde’s place of employment and meager apartment. His face partially disfigured in the fire, Timothy is persuaded by his politically connected older brother Valentine into joining the newly created police force and becoming a “copper star.” Walking his beat one night, Timothy bumps into a 10-year-old girl who is covered in blood and proclaiming that several “mab kinchin” (child prostitutes) have been murdered by a mysterious man in a dark hood. When the decomposed bodies and bones of 19 children are found buried in a nearby forest, Timothy uses his knowledge of “flash” dialogue and powers of observation to investigate the case.
In this historical suspense novel, author Faye uses copious amounts of description and authentic dialogue to make the reader feel as if they are in 1840s New York City. The reader follows Timothy into every rat-infested alley, smoke-filled tavern and densely populated boarding house. The plot is well-paced but never rushed as the story slowly builds to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion. As the lead character, Timothy is smart, likeable and compassionate. Even the minor characters are richly drawn and feature distinct, memorable qualities. Faye obviously performed a great deal of research into the time period, as she weaves several historical facts about the Five Points area into the proceedings. The struggle of Irish immigrants to acclimate themselves in a new country and Tammany Hall politics play a prominent role in the storyline. Additionally, her use of “flash” dialogue – slang used in some working class New York neighborhoods – lends a realistic voice to the characters. The book would appeal to readers interested in this time period as well as those who enjoy police procedurals with suspenseful overtones.
By Brian Barrett
Readers’ Advisory Librarian