The third in the Timothy Wilde historical crime series, which began so well with The Gods of Gotham back in 2012, closes with a return to Wilde’s biggest fear, which has already brought him so much tragedy; fire.
Set in 1848 New York, the city is teeming with Irish immigrants fleeing famine only to die in the slums. At the same time, women workers are rising up, striking for better pay and conditions in the multitude of manufacturies that produce slave clothes. New York is also in the midst of election for Alderman, with Tammany split between the ruthless tyrant Robert Symmes, whose buildings are the target of an arsonist with a seemingly personal vendetta, and Valentine Wilde, the hero and brother of Timothy, the copper star police investigating the firestarting.
Much like the previous book in this series, Seven for a Secret, the story far out-weighs the writing in why you should read this book. The mystery of who is behind the fires is far less interesting that the story of New York itself, and I found myself once again drawn into the lives of the people and how they came to live there.
Where this book goes wrong is how over dramatic and over-emphasised ever single thought, feeling and emotion Wilde goes through is. Internal monologues are dragged out for paragraphs for no reason, he can’t just have a bad day- everything is the worst thing ever. Someone gives him a funny look and they’ve ‘found a new crowbar to pry my ribs open with’. Yes, the book is full of horror and yes, some of the characters are plain nasty, but I just wanted to read the story, not have to skim pages and pages of Wilde’s feelings for others.
This series started brilliantly, but to be honest this one dragged. The history, however, is fascinating. Faye knows her city very well and I laughed whole hardheartedly at the farce of the election campaign. Valentine Wilde once again is the best character on the page, and deserves a series of his own, without the hyperbole. If you haven’t already read Gods of Gotham, however, I’d definitely give it a go, as it was a very stirring book I still think about.