TITLE: The Fatal Flame
AUTHOR: Lyndsay Faye
The third, and last, because this is a trilogy, not an ongoing series, Timothy Wilde mystery. I'm going to miss spending time with these characters. It's now 1848 in a still-young but already grimy and gritty New York City. Tammany Hall's corruption touches everything, and women are expected to fill the roles men allow and nothing more. A police detective before the word "detective" was in use, Tim is assigned the case of an arsonist torching the properties owned by a corrupt alderman, Richard Symmes, the same Richard Symmes Tim's brother Valentine decides to oppose in an upcoming election. Throw in immigrant women forced to work for low or barely any wages as seamstresses and their attempt to gain more rights through a strike, and you end up with a powder keg waiting to be set off. Then Tim's personal life gets complicated by the return of Mercy Underhill, the woman who he first adored when they were growing up together as friends. And, fittingly, Tim is forced to face his biggest fear: fire. Because a fire killed his parents when he was young, and a later fire almost claimed him, leaving him scarred.
Faye balances all the story and character elements of this complex plot with skill. Her research seems topnotch, and has inspired me to read up on this time period in New York City. The narrative voice is Tim's as he writes of the events, and of his own heart, from the distance of time. An epilogue puts a satisfying cap on the trilogy. I'm going to miss Tim and his way of looking at his world.