Transported to the Manhattan of 1846 when the police force (or Stars as its members are called) is in its infancy, dirt and squalor in the streets and crime is rampant, we follow the investigation of Copper star Timothy Wilde and his capricious brother Valentine into the kidnapping of Mrs Lucy Adams family. Tim and Val are opposites: Tim is the quiet thinker whereas Val is brilliant, reckless and given to the pleasures of life in all their forms. They are no strangers to hardship, having grown up in what is, in essence, a cauldron for all types of disease and dishonesty.
Lucy`s sister and son have been taken by Blackbirders; slave catchers who operate within the law in Manhattan. Tim has to delve into depths of violent depravity on the streets in order to solve the case and rescue the family. This is no mean feat as the devious Blackbirders make money out of catching freed slaves as well as the runaways from the southern plantations and are willing to stop at nothing to achieve their ends. The Law does not mean anything to them – in fact some corrupt politicians actively encourage the practice, so how will Tim, with Val`s help, bring these people to some form of justice?
Lyndsay Faye creates the lurid atmosphere of lawlessness, brothels and the desperation of the Irish immigrants flowing into New York in the 1860s to escape the potato famine with astounding accuracy. We suffer the injustices and gasp at the often brutal attitudes of those in charge towards the lives of others which are held cheaply. Her characterisations are insightful to the point where we become part of the plot and experience the despair, helplessness but also the dreams of all concerned.
A vibrant and exciting read – highly recommended.
Reviewed by Liz.
Thank you to Headline for sending us a copy to review.