Nineteenth-century New Orleans is a blazing hotbed of scorching politics and personal vendettas. And it’s into this fire that Benjamin January falls when he is hired to follow Oliver Weems, a bank official who has absconded with $100,000 in gold and securities. But it’s more than just a job for January. The missing money is vital to the survival of the school for freed slaves that he and his wife Rose have founded.
Following the suspected embezzler—and the money—onto the steamboat Silver Moon, January, Rose, and their friend Hannibal Sefton are sworn to secrecy about the crime until they can find the trunks containing the stolen loot. And then the unexpected happens: Weems is found murdered and suddenly the job of finding the pirated stash grows not only more difficult—but more deadly. There is no shortage of suspects—from the sinister slave-dealer to the bullying steamship pilot to the suspiciously innocent "lady" with connections to every river pirate in the riotous port of Natchez-Under-the-Hil—who all seem to have something to hide.
Now, with time running out, January seeks clues wherever he can find them–and allies among whoever can help. Working in tandem with a young planter named Jefferson Davies, he must uncover the dark web of corruption, betrayal, and greed that has already cost one man his life…and, if he can’t catch a brutal, remorseless killer, will soon cost January and his friends theirs.
The New York Times hails Barbara Hambly’s novels featuring Benjamin January as “masterly,” “ravishing,” and “haunting.” The Chicago Tribune crowns them “dazzling…January is a wonderfully rich and complex character.” Now the bestselling author returns with a story that leads January from the dangerously sensual milieu of New Orleans into a world seething with superstition and dark spirits, where one man’s freedom turns on a case of murder and blood vengeance.
Days of the Dead
Mexico City in the autumn of 1835 is a lawless place, teeming with bandits and beggars. But an urgent letter from a desperate friend draws Benjamin January and his new bride Rose from New Orleans to this newly free province. Here they pray they’ll find Hannibal Sefton alive—and not hanging from the end of a rope.Sefton stands accused of murdering the only son of prominent landowner Don Prospero de Castellon. But when Benjamin and Rose arrive at Hacienda Mictlán, they encounter a murky tangle of family relations, and more than one suspect in young Fernando’s murder.
While the evidence against Hannibal is damning, Benjamin is certain that his consumptive, peace-loving fellow musician isn’t capable of murder. Their only allies are the dead boy’s half sister, who happens to be Hannibal’s latest inamorata, and the mentally unstable Castellon himself, who awaits Mexico’s holy Days of the Dead, when he believes his slain son will himself reveal the identity of his killer.The search for the truth will lead Benjamin and Rose down a path that winds from the mazes of the capital’s back streets and barrios to the legendary pyramids of Mictlán and, finally, to a place where spirits walk and the dead cry out for justice. But before they can lay to rest the ghosts of the past, Benjamin and Rose will have to stop a flesh-and-blood murderer who’s determined to escape the day of reckoning and add Benjamin and Rose to the swelling ranks of the dead.
In such stunning novels of crime and character as Die Upon a Kiss, Sold Down the River, and A Free Man of Color, Benjamin January tracked down killers through the sensuous, atmospheric, dangerously beautiful world of Old New Orleans. Now, in this new novel by bestselling author Barbara Hambly, he follows a trail of murder from illicit back alleys to glittering mansions to a dark place where the oldest and deadliest secrets lie buried . . .
It’s 1835 and the relentless glare of the late July sun has slowed New Orleans to a standstill. When Hesione LeGros–once a corsair’s jeweled mistress, now a raddled hag–is found slashed to death in a shanty on the fringe of New Orleans’s most lawless quarter, there are few to care. But one of them is Benjamin January, musician and teacher. He well recalls her blazing ebony beauty when she appeared, exquisitely gowned and handy with a stiletto, at a demimonde banquet years ago.
Who would want to kill this woman now–Hessy, they said, would turn a trick for a bottle of rum–had some quarrelsome “customer” decided to do away with her? Or could it be one of the sexual predators who roamed the dark and seedy streets? Or–as Benjamin comes to suspect–was her killer someone she knew, someone whose careful search of her shack suggests a cold-blooded crime? Someone whose boot left a chillingly distinctive print . . .
His inquiries at taverns, markets, and slave dances reveal little about “Hellfire Hessy” since her glory days in Barataria Bay, once the lair of gentlemen pirates. Then the murder is swept from his mind by the delivery of a crate filled with contraband rifles–and yet another telltale boot print left by its claimant. When a murder swiftly follows, Ben and Rose Vitrac, the woman he loves, fear the workings of a serpentine mind and a treacherous plot: one only they can hope to thwart in time.
All too soon they are fugitives of color in the stormy bayous and marshes of slave-stealer country, headed for smugglers’ haunts and sinister plantations, where one false step could be their last toward a…Wet Grave.
In February 1835, the cold New Orleans streets are alight with masked Mardi Gras revelers as the American Theater’s impresario, Lorenzo Belaggio, brings a magnificent yet controversial operatic version of Othello to town. But it’s pitch-black in the alley where free man of color Benjamin January hears a slurred whisper, spies the flash of a knife, and is himself wounded as he rescues Belaggio from a vicious attack. Could competition for audiences—or for Belagio’s affections—provoke such violent skulduggery? Or is Shakespeare’s tragic tale, with its spectacle of a black man’s passion for a white beauty, one that some Creole citizen—or American parvenu—would do anything to keep off the stage? The soaring music will lead January into a tangle of love, hate, and greed more treacherous than any onstage drama, as he must discover who is responsible…and who will Die Upon a Kiss.
Penetrating the murkiest corners of glittering New Orleans society, Benjamin January brought murderers to justice in A Free Man of Color, Fever Season, and Graveyard Dust. Now, in Barbara Hambly’s haunting new novel, he risks his life in a violent plantation world darker than anything in the city….
When slave owner Simon Fourchet asks Benjamin January to investigate sabotage, arson, and murder on his plantation, January is reluctant to do any favors for the savage man who owned him until he was seven. But he knows too well that plantation justice means that if the true culprit is not found, every slave on Mon Triomphe will suffer.
Abandoning his Parisian French for the African patois of a field hand, cutting cane until his bones ache and his musician’s hands bleed, Benjamin must use all his intelligence and cunning to find the killer … or find himself sold down the river.
Bestselling author Barbara Hambly’s A Free Man of Color and Fever Season established Benjamin January as one of mystery’s most exciting heroes. Now he returns in a powerful new novel, a sensual mosaic of old New Orleans, where cultures clash and murder can hover around every darkened corner….
It is St. John’s Eve in the summer of 1834 when Benjamin January—Creole physician and music teacher—is shattered by the news that his sister has been arrested for murder. The Guards have only a shadow of a case against her. But Olympe—mystical and rebellious—is a woman of color, whose chance for justice is slim.
As Benjamin probes the allegation, he is targeted by a new threat: graveyard dust sprinkled at his door, whispering of a voodoo death curse. Now, to save Olympe’s life—and his own—Benjamin knows he must glean information wherever he can find it. For in the heavy darkness of New Orleans, the truth is what you make it, and justice can disappear with the night’s warm breeze as easy as graveyard dust….
Benjamin January made his debut in bestselling author Barbara Hambly’s A Free Man of Color, a haunting mélange of history and mystery. Now he returns in another novel of greed, madness, and murder amid the dark shadows and dazzling society of old New Orleans, named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times.
The summer of 1833 has been one of brazen heat and brutal pestilence, as the city is stalked by Bronze John—the popular name for the deadly yellow fever epidemic that tests the healing skills of doctor and voodoo alike. Even as Benjamin January tends the dying at Charity Hospital during the steaming nights, he continues his work as a music teacher during the day.
When he is asked to pass a message from a runaway slave to the servant of one of his students, January finds himself swept into a tempest of lies, greed, and murder that rivals the storms battering New Orleans. And to find the truth he must risk his freedom…and his very life.
A lush and haunting novel of a city steeped in decadent pleasures . . . and of a man, proud and defiant, caught in a web of murder and betrayal.
It is 1833. In the midst of Mardi Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d’Orleans when the evenings festivities are interrupted—by murder.
Ravishing Angelique Crozat, a notorious octoroon who travels in the city’s finest company, has been strangled to death. With the authorities reluctant to become involved, Ben begins his own inquiry, which will take him through the seamy haunts of riverboatmen and into the huts of voodoo-worshipping slaves.
But soon the eyes of suspicion turn toward Ben—for, black as the slave who fathered him, this free man of color is still the perfect scapegoat. . . .
Praise for A Free Man of Color
“A smashing debut. Rich and exciting with both substance and spice.”—Star Tribune, Minneapolis