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Sold Down the River [Mass Market Paperback]

Barbara Hambly
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 9.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

May 29 2001 Benjamin January
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.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The darkest time in American history comes alive in Hambley's unforgettable series of mysteries, of which this is the fourth, after Graveyard Dust. In 1835 New Orleans, Benjamin January is a Paris-educated surgeon and musician, but he's also a former slave. Along with white American policeman Abishag Shaw, Ben is asked to help out on an investigation into possible sabotage and murder at a sugar plantation up the river from the city. The catch is that the person asking is his former owner, the thoroughly evil Simon Fourchet. Ben must go to Fourchet's plantation, Mon Triomphe, and work undercover as a slave, chopping the sugarcane in the fields. Ben agrees to take on the dreadful job because he knows that if the "hoodoo" isn't found quickly, the lives and well-being of many slaves will be in jeopardy. Already, "les blankittes" (the whites) believe a slave revolt is brewing on the plantation, and their punishment of the slaves will surely be terrible if more incidents occur. In order to learn the truth, Ben has to undergo all the appalling and humiliating experiences that the plantation slaves routinely endure. Hambly's fiercely burning picture of the horrors of slavery inevitably overwhelms the specifics of the plot, but she evokes the period marvelously, piling detail upon detail to create a finely wrought portrait of the daily lives of slaves on the notorious Louisiana sugar plantations. And her mastery of the slave songs, the backbreaking labor of the harvest, the African-French-Creole culture and the medicine (both traditional and voodoo) is astonishing. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The latest in Hambly's series featuring freed slave and sleuth Benjamin January is difficult to read, given its graphic depiction of the horrors of slavery. Reluctantly, January agrees to go undercover as a slave for his former owner, Simon Fourchet, to help determine who is sabotaging the cruel owner's plantation. January's motivation is not to help Fourchet, of course, but to stop the reprisals that the slaves will undergo until the guilty party is found. Hambly has done her research, and her depictions of what slaves endured in nineteenth-century New Orleans are brutally realistic. Every bit as jarring as the physical torture is the psychological abuse January must absorb from Fourchet and his despicable henchmen. Hambly effectively combines three genres--mystery, historical fiction, mainstream melodrama--in this disturbing but quite moving story. Jenny McLarin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Terribly Real Period Piece! Dec 2 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It is very difficult to read this book of Ms. Hambly's because her portrayal of slavery and the slave's lot in 19th century America is so real. The book is filled with horror from cover to cover, but there is warmth, fellowship and love there too. When people are together in misery very lasting and strong bonds and friendships are forged, and Benjamin January rediscovers this when he goes undercover on a cane plantation to try to determine who is behind all the accidents and deaths occuring on his old master's plantation. January certainly has no love for Simon Fourtier, but he can't help going to help because if tragedy occurs to the white folks on a plantation, it can't help but be felt by the slaves, and they usually end up suffering the more for it. January goes to help, and goes to work as a field hand with the threat of being plunged back into the slave's life very real to him. He makes some lasting friendships, but at the same time uncovers an evil so grotesque that he can hardly take it in. Luckily for Ben, his old friend Hannibal and Abishag Shaw come to his rescue before he is actually "sold down the river". Ms. Hambly's research is very extensive, and she captures this era better than anyone I've read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, and very, very good. Aug. 27 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I think I should begin by saying that Barbara Hambly may be my favorite author. I keep the Darwath books by my bed, to read again and again on nights I can't sleep--Gil Patterson is a soul sister. Hambly wrote the Darwath books many years ago, and of course I have read everything else she's written, the good ones and the terrific ones. The Benjamin January books fulfill the promise of her earlier work, and they are splendid stories and engrossing mysteries, but beyond that, they stand alone as literary works of art and mood. You feel the fears, the heat and the miseries, the joys and the sorrows of this Free Man of Color, but more than that, you begin--only begin, of course--to understand the true horror of slavery and the shining glory inherent in the ability of some men and women to maintain their essential goodness when faced with the stark, uncaring inhumanity of their fellow men. No, these books won't ever help me into calm and dreamless sleep--they have a value far beyond that. Benjamin January, like Gil Patterson, is a person to me--a friend I would know immediately if I met him in real life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An eye opener but somewhat unrealistic feeling. Aug. 10 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've read Hambly's fantasy and vampire books, and enjoyed them. Looking through a bookstore in Maine before a research cruise for something different to read, I was glancing through the fiction section and noticed this book. It sounded like an interesting read and since I'd never read anything dealing with a realistic depiction of American slavery, I picked it up.
Her writing is as well done as I expected, the descriptions of New Orleans, the plantation, the rural areas surrounding both, are all lush and/or disturbing. The depiction of slavery itself seems spot on also, and learning some of the details of went on made it a hard read in spots, but worthwhile. Her characters are all well differentiated from each other but there are quite a few of them to keep straight, I especially had difficulty with keeping track of everyone in the plantation owner's family for awhile. Hambly is able to write tender scenes, graphically violent events and suspenseful moments with equal skill.
While the writing is excellent, the story itself is sometimes hard to swallow. One of the keys to allowing the reader suspension of disbelief is to read the cover where it says "A novel of suspense." It's not really a mystery, as the clues tend to be discovered by the reader and the protagonist at the same time, with explanations as to what the clues mean fairly quickly. The character is somewhat amazing, as other reviewers have mentioned. Many of the scenes read like an action movie. The character always manages to stumble across the major elements of the puzzle even if he's not actively looking for them. This is all more easily forgiven if you realize what kind of a novel it is. Still, it does take away some from the believability of the story which is why I can't give the novel 5 stars. Because of its realistic depiction of slavery and great writing style though, it's on my highly recommended list.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Overly complicated May 13 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Being both a U.S. history buff and a mystery fan, I expected to love this book. I gave up after slogging through 150 pages. New characters (many with similar names) are introduced about every other page, making the story very difficult to keep straight. Benjamin January also brings a multi-layered backstory to the proceedings, adding additional layers of complexity (and does anybody else think a musician-surgeon-classically educated sensitive widower is a bit too good to be true?).
Add a setting unfamiliar to most readers (an 1830s Creole sugar cane plantation), and the density of details overwhelms both plot and characterization. Casual readers will find this book tough sledding.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
Being a US History buff, I am always eager to read historical fiction to see how well the writing exemplifies the time period in which it is set. Ms. Hambly does an excellent job of creating a believable setting and detailed characters that are a treat to read. The Mississippi Delta region and its way of life in the early 1800's comes alive when reading this series of books.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hambly's 4 for 4 in this series
This is the second in my three book acquisition from the library that I made to finish this series. I greatly enjoyed the first three (as my review of Graveyard Dust details), but... Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2001 by David Roy
5.0 out of 5 stars No Punches Pulled
As a mystery writer whose works address social themes, I greatly admire this effort by Barbara Hambly. Read more
Published on July 5 2001 by Kent Braithwaite
5.0 out of 5 stars A smoothly written novel of suspense.
This Benjamin January mystery provides a smooth novel of suspense set in New Orleans and steeped with drama and tension. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2001 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to read, harder to put down!
Despite it's graphic details of the realities and humiliation of slavery, I found this book to be a very good read. It kept me guessing until the end. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Kudos!
Benjamin January was a slave who had been treated brutally by his former master Simon Fourchet. Fortunately for him he had been sold to another master who sent him to Paris... Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2000 by Affaire de Coeur
5.0 out of 5 stars gasp!
When January -- "stepped out into the yard straight into the midst of -------------." I gasped out loud, "Oh no" and shut the book afraid to go on reading. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2000 by Barbara Noble
5.0 out of 5 stars incredible
I have waited long for another Hambly book. After Dragonbane where the characters were so real and moving, to find a very complex, exciting, capable and intricate character in... Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2000 by Jo Ann Rosenfeld
5.0 out of 5 stars A bitter tale well told
What will you do for love? Love of self, love of others, of family, friends and children? If hate is the other side of love, what will you be driven to do? Could you kill? Read more
Published on July 15 2000
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