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.
Learned black surgeon Benjamin January returns from his debut as protagonist in A Free Man of Color (1997) to utilize his considerable skills in a graphic and compelling story based on events that transpired in 1834. The Paris-trained physician, still grieving for his recently deceased wife, is back in New Orleans after a 16-year absence and his now treating the victims of a raging cholera epidemic. But his position at Charity Hospital is precarious--accepted in his own mixed-race society, he is scorned by most whites. Now, even in the chaotic mayhem of an epidemic, January becomes aware of a disturbing fact: free people of color are disappearing. Are they dying? Are they being abducted to be resold as slaves? Although chronically fatigued from his multiple occupations (he gives piano lessons to eke out his income) and the demands of his eccentric family, he nonetheless manages to begin a discreet investigation that will involve some unique and idiosyncratic individuals including street people, con men and aristocrats. He even forms an unlikely alliance with a coarse, yet astute, white police lieutenant. January's queries are further complicated by the disappearance of his friend Cora, who may be implicated in theft and murder. Complex in plotting, rich in atmosphere and written in powerful, lucid prose, this compelling mystery holds its secrets until a horrifying, compelling finale.