Bantam, Jun 2002, 23.95, 304 pp.
In 1835 New Orleans, Olympia Snakebones sends for her brother Benjamin January to come to the poorer side of town because someone killed a free colored lady, Hesione LeGros. The victim was stabbed to death with the culprit obviously searching her shack for something, but it was not for financial reasons. The killer never robbed Hesione or took the money in her possession.
The city guards fail to arrive to investigate the homicide as they are busy with the murder of a white plus blacks receive “leftover” justice in the same way slaves receive food scraps. Refusing to ignore the crime, Benjamin accompanied by his beloved Rose Vitric begins making inquiries into the brutal death of an old woman.
The January historical mysteries are some of the best nineteenth century tales on the market regardless of genre. The story line vividly brings New Orleans with its caste society to life so that the reader feels as if they are visiting the locale. The who-done-it is cleverly designed to further bring out the era and the hero. Fans of historical tales, especially mysteries will want to read WET GRAVE and the previous January novels that Barbara Hambly has written because these are insightfully top quality.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner