cover image The Shirt on His Back: A Benjamin January Novel

The Shirt on His Back: A Benjamin January Novel

Barbara Hambly. Severn, $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8010-9

Lt. Abishag Shaw of the New Orleans City Guards, keen to apprehend the man who killed his younger brother, hires his friend Benjamin January to help track down the culprit in Hambly's superb 10th historical featuring the black freeman (after 2010's Dead and Buried). Left nearly penniless by the 1837 New Orleans bank failure, January needs no persuading to leave his beloved newly pregnant wife, Rose, and travel hundreds of miles into the Green River wilderness in the Rocky Mountains. Along the way, January and company encounter eccentric trappers, reptilian fur traders, tragic prostitutes, raging missionaries, and sensitively three-dimensional Sioux, Omahas, Crows, and Blackfeet. Their expedition plays out against the British-U.S. rivalry for the enormously profitable beaver fur trade, while American covered wagons toil on toward Oregon. As January struggles to survive fatigue, starvation, and assorted psychological horrors, Hambly convincingly shows that revenge must finally give way to justice. (June)