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Benjamin January Mysteries Books In Order

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Publication Order of Benjamin January Books

A Free Man of Color (1997)Description / Buy at Amazon
Fever Season (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
Graveyard Dust (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
Sold Down the River (2000)Description / Buy at Amazon
Die Upon a Kiss (2001)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wet Grave (2002)Description / Buy at Amazon
Days of the Dead (2003)Description / Buy at Amazon
Dead Water (2004)Description / Buy at Amazon
Dead and Buried (2010)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Shirt On His Back (2011)Description / Buy at Amazon
Ran Away (2011)Description / Buy at Amazon
Good Man Friday (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon
Crimson Angel (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
Hagar (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
Libre (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
There Shall Your Heart Be Also (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
Death on the Moon (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
Drinking Gourd (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
Murder in July (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon
Cold Bayou (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
Lady of Perdition (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon
House of the Patriarch (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon
Death and Hard Cider (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Nubian’s Curse (2024)Description / Buy at Amazon

Benjamin January Mysteries is a set of historical murder mystery novels written by an American author of mystery & thrillers, fantasy and sci-fi and horror books, Barbara Hambly. The series name is based on the names of the lead characters of the novels. Benjamin January novels are set in and the areas surrounding New Orleans during the 1830’s and focus primarily on a free black community that existed during that time and place.

A Free Man of Color, the first novel in the series was published in 1997, and the first eight stories in the series were published by Bantam Press while Severn House Publishers published the subsequent four novels. Fever Season the second book in the series was listed as a New York Times Notable Mystery Novel of 1998. Six stories in the series, Ran Away, Crimson Angel, Dead Water, Fever Season, The Shirt on His Back, and Good Man Friday have been featured on Publishers Weekly starred reviews.

A Free Man of Color

A Free Man of Color is the first work in Barbara Hambly Benjamin mysteries. The novel introduces the readers to Benjamin January the main lead character and the son of one of the liaisons whose dad sent him into France where he became a doctor. Upon his return in New Orleans in the United States after spending years in a color blind, cosmopolitan city, he experiences a culture shock.

It is true that all the medical training in the world would never allow him to be a doctor in any place in the southern states and so January earns his living as a part-time Managing Director and a musician.

January is a smart man with a knack for asking an eye for detail, and soon he assumes another job as a private investigator. So when a charming and hard-hearted Angelique Crozat is found murdered in the middle of an Opulent Mardi Gras costume, Benjamin finds himself the primary suspect in the murder case. With his life and freedom at stake, he sets out to find the man behind the killing. His investigations will take him from the huts of voodoo worshippers to the mansion of the wealthy white planters and through the darkest streets of New Orleans in search of a killer who is set to strike again.

The first novel in the Benjamin January Mysteries features a thrilling and complex mystery with a broadcast of characters. Apart from the mystery elements, the book features aspects of historical fiction. For example, the novel title, free man of color refers to Benjamin- a man who lived in the 1833 New Orleans.

After returning home from Paris, he experiences culture shock- this is because while in France he was treated with respect but now that he is again in the United States, he has to adjust to the inferior status he holds in the country.

The racism in Louisiana is far worse as the region boorish men highly dilute French culture with some American identity and with the assumption that anyone black deserves nothing good in life than to be enslaved.

At this point- the author’s narration only leaves the readers with one question in mind- why would Benjamin live in such hostile environment? The author also strives to answer this question- Benjamin is escaping the grief over the death of his beloved wife. He also feels an obligation to family and friends, and even that he has a sense of “home” and “belonging” tied to New Orleans.

The plot itself is interesting and captivating. During a courtesan balling event, a young woman is found dead. The victim is a woman of mixed race and hence termed as a woman of low moral standing. Fortunately, Benjamin, the only man with an innate sense of justice, does not allow that to happen. However, he soon discovers that his attempt to do justice in a world where racism is the order of the day may not have been in his self-interest. He was the last man to be seen with the victim alive and in a world where black lives never matter it would be far easier to pin the crime on black than to investigate a crime possibly committed by a white man. So, Benjamin’s only hope to avoid getting convicted of a crime he did not commit was to try and solve it himself to clear his name.

However, as he investigates into what possibly happened, and who may have had a grudge against the victim, things get more complicated. For she was not a pleasant person to the townsfolk, and the list of people who may have at one point wanted her six foot below only gets longer as more clues emerge. A Free Man of Color is a solid mystery intermixed with meticulous social and historical details.

Fever Season

Fever Season is the second book in Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly. The summer of 1833, has been recorded as one of worst in history as the city is quickly infected by a deadly cholera epidemic that puts to test the healing skills of medical doctors and voodoo alike.

Benjamin’s medical training keeps him all night with those sick at Charity Hospital. Then suddenly his work as a musician drags him out again into the empty streets. Empty, except for the young dark-skinned plantation ragamuffin visiting the town in searching for her lover traded in slavery to one of the distinguished families. Though Benjamin is quite sure that she is a runaway he agrees to pass the young woman’s message to the man that she seeks.

Soon, he discovers that the young woman had been accused of killing her master Otis Redfern and also poisoning her master’s wife to near death. However, it appears that Otis wife had motives to see her husband dead, and so does the young runaway.

Before Benjamin can piece together the clues, the young runaway vanishes in the torrid night. Risking both his freedom and his dear life, he pursues the truth in the midst of fevered and a lush world of grim cemeteries, opulent townhouses, and raucous public house.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Benjamin January Mysteries

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