I’m completely in the bag for Lyndsay Faye.
She grabbed me in 2012 with her Edgar Award-nominated The Gods of Gotham. I went back and read her first book, the witty and propulsive Sherlock Holmes mystery, Dust and Shadow, and found it a worthy homage to and, frankly, more enjoyable than anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Gods of Gotham sequel, 2013’s Seven for a Secret was every bit as good as its predecessor.
When I was given my own bookcase endcap in the store where I can show off my favorite reads, The Gods of Gotham was the first one I picked. Its follow-up also earned its shelf space there.
The third installment of her trilogy, The Fatal Flame, came out yesterday and, having read it months ago, I can tell you it’s Faye’s best yet.
Lyndsay Faye, author of some of my absolute favorite books is coming to Booksellers this Sunday, May 17. If you’re looking for me between now and then, find the guy who looks like me and then look a pace-and-a-half to the left.
There I’ll be.
Her novels put me under a spell of transportation, immersing me into her deeply-researched but fictional world of 1840’s New York City populated with complex, fully-formed, fully-human characters.
When I tell you Lyndsay Faye is terrific, you should believe me. But if you knew the whole story you’d have reason to question my objectivity.
Here’s the whole story.
Last December, I picked up a shift on a Friday, my usual day off. I’d noticed a woman and a man with arms full of books mulling about the mystery section of the store. As I was heading past, the woman , arms-laden with more than a dozen books, began walking towards me, flashing me that “I’m about to ask you a weird question” look as we made eye contact. As we slowed to a stop, she tentatively asked, “Are you Matt?”
My brain meat facial-recognition firmware furiously clicked through possible matches and landed on a highly improbable option that stupidly spilled out of my mouth before I could stop it.
“Are you…Lyndsay Faye?”
Pop! Her face brightened as she confirmed my impossible thought: Lyndsay Faye was in my bookstore.
I’ll confess that at this point, my higher brain functions shut down and I lost access to most of my memory. The details are hazy, but I think it’s something like this: she was in town to give a talk at a local school. The professor who invited her had been in the store looking for a copy of Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. He happened to find it in my picks endcap, set right along The Gods of Gotham and Seven for a Secret. After Faye’s talk, the professor suggested they come by the local independent bookstore because one of its employees was a big fan of hers.
So they did.
Lyndsay Faye came into Booksellers.
To. See. Me.
After enduring my dumb grinning and incoherent babbling, Faye couldn’t haven’t been more generous. She spent 20 minutes just chatting with me about her work, about books, about other things I don’t remember. She was charming, gracious and most of all, genuinely appreciative of my support and love of her work.
Really, it was the kind of interaction a bookseller dreams of, meeting their favorite author and finding him or her as interesting and funny and personable and appreciative as you’d hope. I couldn’t have possible asked for more.
During our conversation, I’d told Lyndsay how I’d already told her how I’ve been pestering my publisher representative for an advanced readers copy of her new book. She told me that the first ARCs were coming in the next couple of weeks and that she’d make sure I get a copy. She also mentioned how much she liked our store. I don’t remember if I suggested it or she did, but the idea of her coming to the store for a signing after The Fatal Flame‘s publication was discussed. She said she’d love to but she normally only tours the big mystery bookstores around the country (New York, Portland, Seattle, etc.) so she’d have to talk to her publicist.
Several weeks later, I arrived at work to find a bulky envelop in my mailbox. It was an ARC of The Fatal Flame. It was sent personally by Lynsday Faye, complete with a nice personalized inscription. A day later, Faye’s publicist contacted the store’s events coordinator saying that Lyndsay really wanted to come to the store for a signing. Were we interested?
Were we interested?
This was above-and-beyond. She stopped by the store and absolutely made my bookseller day (year? career?). She follow-up with an autographed advanced copy of her book. She took a detour from her book tour to come to my workplace for a signing.
Where Lyndsay Faye the author captured me in a spell of transportation, Lyndsay Faye the person brought me to heel with a charm potion.
I’m in the bag for Lyndsay Faye.
So here we are and now you know the whole story.
So I could go on and on telling you how Lyndsay Faye is a master of elegantly weaving rich historical detail and context into the story. Show she paints such an evocative picture of 1840’s New York City that we’re able to understand and feel the human-scale consequences of the culture and institutions that comprise the era. That we, for example, get to understand what it means to be a woman at that time, where life options are essentially binary: marry or struggle not to starve to death. How instead of having characters that play out and/or stand in as archetypes and symbols of a conflict of the period, Faye creates fully-fleshed characters that act within and outside the culture’s framework. These characters are humans, not symbols. This allows for complexity and results, in Faye’s hands, in true emotional payoffs.
I could go on. But after sharing with you my experience, it would be reasonable for you to question my objectivity.
If you’re a fan of literary mysteries, historical fiction or just well-written hero stories that immerse you in another world, you should come to Booksellers this Sunday at 3:00.
I’ll be here…beside myself. I hope to see you next to me (next to me).
Since you may think me hopelessly not objective on the merits of Lyndsay Faye’s work, I’ve enlisted two of my colleagues who love her books to weigh in”
Kat Leache: Within the first chapter or two of The Gods of Gotham, Faye will introduce you to at least three complex and unforgettable characters who you will only charm and fascinate you more as the trilogy progresses. Its well-crafted historical mystery plot will make you want to turn the pages quickly, but the unique and endearing perspective of first-person narrator Timothy Wilde will keep your pace steady, as you won’t want to miss a single turn of phrase. A fascinating portrayal of 1840s Manhattan to boot, I would recommend Gods of Gotham to almost anyone.
Karen Tallant: Lyndsay Faye’s Gods Of Gotham has it’s feet firmly planted in history, while it’s head and heart are filled with beautifully drawn characters. It’s as complex, brutal and richly drawn as the period of New York History it depicts. This book is bold and unflinching; vividly portraying good and evil breathtaking measure.