cover image Good Man Friday: A Benjamin January Novel

Good Man Friday: A Benjamin January Novel

Barbara Hambly. Severn, $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8255-4

Historical horrors abound in Hambly’s excellent 12th Benjamin January novel (after 2011’s Ran Away). By showing compassion for a dying fighting slave, January—a free black man and surgeon–turned–piano player in antebellum New Orleans—loses his musician job. To support his family, he agrees to help wealthy planter Henri Viellard (whose mistress is January’s sister Minou) locate a missing friend—elderly English mathematician Selwyn Singletary. Along with Veillard, Minou, and Viellard’s chilly wife, Chloe, he travels to a decadent Washington, D.C., inhabited by slave stealers, grave robbers, spies, and venal legislators. Hambly’s brilliantly conceived cast includes a young Edgar Allan Poe, a sinister British spymaster, a New England abolitionist promoting an early form of baseball, and a courageous and loyal slave named Ganymede Tyler, the eponymous “Man Friday.” Hambly brings back to life a world where Congressmen obliviously pass chained men without a glance, forcing her readers to wonder painfully with January, “Jesus, where are you now?” Agent: Frances Collin Literary Agency. (June)