Book Reviews of 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
ISBN-13: 9780553575262
ISBN-10: 0553575260
Publication Date: 6/1/1998
Pages: 432
Rating:
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 56

3.7 stars, based on 56 ratings
Publisher: Bantam
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

20 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 44 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
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: 2
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 + 22 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Hambly is best known for her vampire novels. This one introduces an interesting, engaging protagonist "of color", Benjamin January, and weaves the struggles of an educated, cosmopolitan African-American man at a time when such individuals were extremely rare, along with a heaping helping of voodoo-laced mystery and societal intrigue. A cut above the usual.
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.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 185 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
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: 1
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 + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A well plotted mystery full of surprises, taking place in the unusual setting of 1833 New Orleans, in the Creole community. All sorts of fascinating glimpses into issues of race and culture of the time. Protagonist Benjamin January is himself a mystery, one who doesn't quite get solved in one book.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 232 more book reviews
First in a fantastic historical mystery. Visiting New Orleans in 1833 is like visiting another planet! I loved this book and am anxious to read the next one. Each book is it's own story and you don't need to read the series in order but it's good to read this first one.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 906 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 + 330 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.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on
First book in the series about 1830's New Orleans. This series is an fascinating reading experience of the world of "free men and women of color" before the Civil War.
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 + 62 more book reviews
This book starts a terrific series about a freed slave who, after training as a surgeon in Paris, returns to New Orleans in 1833. Barred from practicing medicine because of his color, Benjamin January makes his living playing and teaching piano for the wealthy white planters. Excellent research creates a solid foundation for this series of murder mysteries in which New Orleans history plays a critical role.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on
I first read Fever Season and enjoyed it so much that I went back and started at the beginning with this book. As fresh a book as when it first came out and well worth starting this series at the beginning!
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 199 more book reviews
Historical murder mystery set in 19th century New Orleans. First one of the series of Benjamin January books
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 2 more book reviews
I love historical books and a historical book that is also a mystery is twice the pleasure.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 125 more book reviews
This book is a great read...and yes, lots of history and a view of New Orleans that you don't get very often.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 135 more book reviews
It's 1833, in the middle of Mardi Gras and Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher is playing piano at the Salle d'Orleans when the evening's festivies are interrupted by murder.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 125 more book reviews
1833, Mardi Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d'Orleans when the evening's festivities are interrupted by murder. What follows is a great tale of the south and color and murder.
reviewed A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Bk 1) on + 205 more book reviews
I couldn't seem to get into this one. Benjamin January found a job playing piano at the Salled'Orleans. Where the elite American and French come to drink and dance.In trying to arrange a meeting between a white woman and her late husband's Creole mistress at a quadroon ball.
The Creole mistress,Angelique is suddenly found murdered, a scarf pulled tightly around her neck. Since the police don't feel compelled to solve the mystery of a colored whore, Ben can't let it rest and finds himself the one hunted,running for his life, knowing that he is caught he will inslaved or hung for murder. To uncover the truth his journey takes him through the seamy haunts of riverboatmenand into huts of voodoo-worshipping slaves. There is no safe place for A Free Man Of Color.