cover image The Fatal Flame

The Fatal Flame

Lyndsay Faye. Putnam, $26.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-399-16948-9

A serial arsonist terrorizes New York City in Edgar-finalist Faye’s superior third historical featuring Timothy Wilde (after 2013’s Seven for a Secret). In the spring of 1848, Robert Symmes, a Tammany Hall politician, meets with Wilde, one of the city’s police officers known as copper stars, and Wilde’s police-captain brother, Valentine, at the Queen Mab, a Manhattan brothel. Symmes needs their help. An advocate for more humane treatment of the city’s female workers has thrown a note through the alderman’s window threatening that things will burn if conditions don’t improve. One of the slum buildings that Symmes owns is soon gutted by fire. Wilde’s investigation is complicated by the reappearance of a lost love and Valentine’s decision to oppose Symmes in an upcoming election. As in her previous books, Faye’s diligence in researching the period is manifest, and readers will feel transported back to mid-19th-century Manhattan. The whodunit aspect is compelling, but Faye is equally adept in incorporating the women’s rights movement of the time and attitudes toward the mentally ill into the story line. Agent: Erin Malone, William Morris Endeavor. (May)