Die Upon a Kiss) builds to hurricane force as the former"/>

WET GRAVE

Barbara Hambly, Author . Bantam $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-553-10935-1

After an excruciatingly slow start, Hambly's sixth novel featuring Benjamin January (after 2001's Die Upon a Kiss) builds to hurricane force as the former slave and Creole surgeon looks into the murder of a drunken whore whom no one seems to care about. Despite his education and musical and medical accomplishments, January is only a short, catastrophic step up from bottom in the oddly stratified society of 1830s New Orleans. January proceeds as carefully with his investigation as he does with his wooing of Rose Vitrac, whose traumatic past he only partially knows and understands. Only when another murder strikes much closer to January's home and heart does the pace quicken. To a desire for vengeance is added a thirst for justice. Still cautious, but steeled by anger, January goes on a search that will lead beyond the fetid city into the surrounding bayous, swamps and islands. When the author hits her stride, the tension ratchets up to an almost unbearable level until the violence of man and the violence of nature are both unleashed. Hambly is terrifically effective in her portrayal of the squalid lives of the poor and enslaved and the contrasting opulence of the wealthy. The beautiful New Orleans of the future can only be glimpsed in the scrofulous, swampy, sewer-like summer heat that pervades everything. Hambly's strong and unusual series tracking a largely unexplored period of American history should continue to please fans and attract new readers. (July 2)

Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
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