Bantam, Jun 2001, 23.95, 336 pp.
Two and a half years ago Benjamin January returned to New Orleans following the death of his beloved wife. Benjamin still finds it difficult to deal with the fact that as a freeman of color the city hierarchy treats him as a second class citizen. Paris taught him the meaning of freedom and watching the slave trade and the other inequities angers Benjamin, but France also contains fond memories that require distance for him to live.
When two thugs attack opera impresario Lorenzo Belaggio in a dark alley near the American Theater, Benjamin intervenes and saves the Italian's life. For his efforts, one of the assailants slashes Benjamin's arm with a knife. Benjamin believes that the attack is racially motivated as Lorenzo is bringing Othello with its black man kissing a white woman to the stage. Lorenzo insists his rival John Davis of a competing opera house hired the “killers”. As the piano player at Belaggio's opera company, Benjamin decides to investigate the attack not yet prepared for the depth of hatred and avarice that threatens anyone who gets too close to the truth.
The fifth January historical mystery continues the tradition of bringing a flavor of 1830s New Orleans to vivid life so that the reader feels transported to that era. The hero is a complex person struggling to contain his anger and his desire to avenge the atrocities he sees and feels every day. The current mystery is cleverly designed, but Barbara Hambley's novel belongs to the bygone era she poignantly portrays in DIE UPON A KISS and in the series previous well-written novels.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner