cover image DAYS OF THE DEAD


Barbara Hambly, . . Bantam, $23.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10954-2

In Hambly's seventh gripping, unsettling mystery to feature free black man Benjamin January (after 2002's Wet Grave), January and his bride, Rose, leave New Orleans for Mexico in 1835. They've received an urgent plea from friend and fellow musician Hannibal Sefton (introduced in 2001's Die Upon a Kiss), who's being held by rich madman Don Prospero de Castellón. Don Prospero not only believes Sefton killed his son; he expects the victim to confirm his murderer's identity when he returns during the Day of the Dead celebrations. Thrown into the volatile mix are a merciless police chief who hates Don Prospero and his immense wealth; the young German valet who proclaimed Sefton his master's killer; Generalissimo Santa Anna, whose approaching war with the "Texians" is financed by Don Prospero; and a host of jealous and vindictive family members who are dependent upon Don Prospero for their finances and living arrangements. As in previous January mysteries, race, power, religion and sex figure prominently in the dense and intricate plot, with an abundance of historical references packed into every chapter. Hambly's Mexico is frighteningly alive, from its rampant poverty and self-serving politicians to the nation's preoccupation with and devotion to its dead. (July 1)