Lyndsay Faye deserves your attention.
While she has achieved critical acclaim, I don’t know anyone besides me who has had the enormous pleasure of reading her books. Faye immerses herself in her fictional worlds and the reader soon gets caught up in them, too.
“Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson” imagines the intrepid and beloved sleuth Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the gruesome Jack the Ripper slayings in Victorian London. Her descriptions of the sordid alleyways and cobbled streets of 1888 are atmospheric. Her rendering of historical details (and facts of the Ripper slayings) makes the story all the more compelling. She’s a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and it shows. (She has a new book out that I haven’t read, “The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes.”)
Oh, how I love Timothy Wilde, the ex-bartender turned kindhearted fledgling copper star (police officer) who struggles to escape poverty amid various tragedies in Faye’s trilogy that begins with “Gods of Gotham.” Tim has a love-hate relationship with his drug-addled yet heroic firefighter brother. Valentine Wilde, who is also in the political arena, plays both sides of the law, often with good intentions. Faye delves deep into the New York of 1845, a city teeming with immigrants and racism and crime and misfortune. The police department is in its infancy. There are interesting (and dark) mysteries to solve in the trilogy, a beautiful but fated romance, Tammany Hall political machinations and an impressive use of flash, the slang of the criminal world. Indeed, Faye adds a dictionary of sorts so readers can decipher what characters are saying. It’s a wonderful detail. For example, a stargazer is a prostitute. A dead rabbit is an athletic, rowdy fellow. If you’re swag-rum, you’re wealthy. A cranky-hutch is an insane asylum. It’s funny and clever.
If you read the trilogy, go in order, starting with “Gods of Gotham.” Then move along to “Seven for a Secret” and “The Fatal Flame.” I was so sad when the series ended. I still want to know what happened next in the lives of the characters to whom I grew attached.
In “Jane Steele,” a thoroughly entertaining retelling of “Jane Eyre,” our murderous heroine seeks love and her place in the world. You’ll fall in love with Jane as she bests those who do her and the ones she loves wrong. You will be rooting for her to have a happy ending.
Faye has a laser focus on the little things. She gets the historical nuances right. She’s a creative writer whose characters are memorable — none of them is perfect. They are flawed and appealing and beautifully imagined. She deserves a wider readership.