The year is 1845, a year in which two remarkable events coincide in New York. The first police force, the Copper Stars is created and a potato famine in Ireland causes scores of Immigrants to flood the docks at New York’s harbors.
Timothy Wilde is a native New Yorker tending bar in downtown Manhattan and squirreling away money for a new life and the hopes of marrying the love of his life. All of Timothy’s dreams are shattered in a deadly fire that ravages the city and leaves him scarred and penniless.
Timothy is forced to accept a position on the newly appointed copper stars squad courtesy of his brother Valentine, a big man in the Democratic Party. When making rounds, Timothy literally walks into a girl covered in blood. Having been an orphan himself, Timothy is loath to deposit her at the House of Refuge and instead brings her home with him. When she starts spinning stories of a burial ground and dead children, Timothy becomes caught up in a struggle for the truth. A struggle that may cost him everything he knows and loves as he races to uncover the mystery amid anti-Irish hatred that may leave the city he loves shattered.
Lyndsay Faye does an extraordinary job with this novel. She brings New York and 1845 alive to the reader. You can smell the squalor and the fear, the hope and the redemption. She weaves an accurate picture of New York during the time period, from the tentements to the Democratic Party and their iron fist, to the flash talk (slang talk) to the undiluted Irish hatred.
The book was hard to put down from page one. Not only are the characters and their histories engrossing, the mystery is well formed and takes the reader on a harrowing journey fraught with twists and turns.
I have to admit I had a crush on Timothy from the word go, scarred and all. I just thought he was a powerful, strong character. He jumped right off the page and came to life for me. I lived through what he did, saw what he saw and rooted for him the entire time.
I loved the dynamics of Timothy’s and Valentine’s relationship and the familial struggles between them. While Valentine was severely flawed he was also unquestionably redeemable. On the other hand, I didn’t care for Mercy (Timothy’s love interest) so much and never clicked with her character.
Overall, I think this is a great read. It’s fascinating to read about that time period and the history, and the plot is fast paced and fully engrossing. There are plenty of twists and turns that it will leave you guessing. Even if you do figure it out, I think the story is open to that and it doesn’t leave you disappointed.
I’ve read in a few places that a sequel is already in the works and I can only hope this is true. I highly recommend reading if you have a love of New York City history or mystery.