Search - A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1)

A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1)
A Free Man of Color - Benjamin January, Bk 1
Author: Barbara Hambly
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 mu...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780553575262
ISBN-10: 0553575260
Publication Date: 6/1/1998
Pages: 432
Rating:
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 58

3.7 stars, based on 58 ratings
Publisher: Bantam
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 44 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
DON'T MISS THIS AUTHOR!
Although it may take a few chapters to engage with the characters, it is well worth the effort. I have read the first 5 (of 8 written to date) in this wonderfully evocative series and find myself missing these complex, finely detailed people between books.
This first Benjamin January mystery in an outstanding series is for anyone interested in New Orleans history. Why hasn't Oprah latched onto this for her book club? I keep picturing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (the late Mr. Eko on TV's Lost) as Ben. Great characters and incredible atmosphere.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 155 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
The Benjamin January series features an African American hero who was born in still-French Louisiana at the turn of the 19th century. His mother is the mistress of a plantation owner and his sister is following that path as well. Benjamin went to Paris to train as a doctor and returns to New Orleans only after the death of his beloved wife. The mysteries he solves are satisfying, and the history of New Orleans before it became U.S. territory and in the first years after is fascinating -- something most of us don't get in our U.S. history classes in school!
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 185 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This is a well-written, evocative book, full of period detail and fully-fleshed, complex characters. It is a historical mystery that succeeds in being both accessible to the modern reader and still hard to untangle. It has moments of humor, pathos, and heart-pounding suspense. It also stares unflinchingly into some very dark places, without letting that darkness overwhelm its story. It is a wonderful book, but not one to be read lightly, particularly if you prefer your reading to be full of sweetness and light. Benjamin January's world is full of everyday defeats and stolen bits of happiness -- and the fact that his world is our world makes every defeat that much more painful. But for the stout of heart this is a luminous piece of genre writing.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Part of Hambly's Benjamin January mystery series, A Free Man of Color is set in New Orleans in 1833, revealing the extremely complex city, socially, politically and economically, and especially matters of race. Charting the subtle but important distinctions made between people of direct or mixed African ancestry, Hambly develops Benjamin January's search for a brutal killer of the beautiful light-skinned Angelique Corzat at one of the season's most important Quadroon Balls. Benjamin January himself is a "free man of color" a gens de colouer. He is also a musician educated in classical music and a surgeon who has returned to New Orleans after several years of schooling in Paris. January, seeking to ease the pain and loss he experienced in Paris, experiences little succor in New Orleans, where, even as a free man, he is still relegated to second-class status. Unable to practice as a surgeon, he attempts to eke out a living as a musician, playing at the balls and operas which proliferated in New Orleans during this time.
Of the many popular social events in New Orleans, the quadroon balls ranked as the crem-de-la-creme of demi monde society. These were social events in which wealthy, white Creole men would meet, and select, a quadroon (child of a mulatto and full white) mistress. The man, or protector, would then support his mistress, or placee, in high fashion, though he would do so separate from his own household. Should he choose to terminate the relationship, he would often provide a settlement to his placee sufficient for her to continue to live in the fashion to which she had become accustomed. And, all the while, the wife and/or family of the protector would feign ignorance. It is while playing at a quadroon ball that January is drawn into a web of intrigue against his own desires. He encounters a masked lady of his acquaintance, the recently widowed Mademoiselle Madeleine, who is preparing to do what, for a white woman, is simply unthinkable for that place and time: enter quadroon ball to confront Angelique Crozat, her late husband's mistress. January offers to function as an intermediary to arrange a meeting between Madeleine and Angelique. His offer quickly goes awry however, when Angelique is found brutally murdered at the ball.

The local authorities, given Angelique's place and station in society, are initially reluctant to pursue the matter. It accordingly is left to January to obtain what justice he can for her by investigating the murder himself. As the clues slowly point to the son of a wealthy, prominent, white New Orleanian, however, January, to his horror, finds himself under a cloud of suspicion which is growing ever larger and darker. The investigation takes on a new urgency as he realizes that he must find Angelique's murderer as much to obtain justice for her as to save himself. A fascinating book, part history, part historical novel, and an intriguing, highly readable mystery.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 44 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
DON'T MISS THIS AUTHOR!
Although it may take a few chapters to engage with the characters, it is well worth the effort. I have read the first 5 (of 8 written to date) in this wonderfully evocative series and find myself missing these complex, finely detailed people between books.
This first Benjamin January mystery in an outstanding series is for anyone interested in New Orleans history. Why hasn't Oprah latched onto this for her book club? I keep picturing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (the late Mr. Eko on TV's Lost) as Ben. Great characters and incredible atmosphere.
Read All 21 Book Reviews of "A Free Man of Color Benjamin January Bk 1"

Please Log in to Rate these Book Reviews

reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on
I am enjoying this series. I like to read about New Orleans in any time period.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 907 more book reviews
I love Barbara Hambly, and this book was just moving. It has everything Ms Hambly is famous for and then some. A beautiful read in a era that was mysterous in it's own. Southern mystery is all i have to hear and i'm on it. This is part of a series, but the book stands alone beautifully. Just one read of Ms. Hamnly's and you will be hooked. Slaves is the south is the era, which makes for history with mystery, death and suspense makes for a perfect read.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 336 more book reviews
This series is excellent. If you enjoy historical fiction set in 1800 US you will enjoy this series. Ms. Hambly does an excellent job with her character development and desctition of the time. You really feel like you understand the time period. Good mystery as well. I highly recommend.

Book Wiki

Common Title
Series
Benjamin January  1 of 9
Original Publication Date (YYYY-MM-DD)

Genres: