cover image The Nubian’s Curse: A Benjamin January Historical Mystery

The Nubian’s Curse: A Benjamin January Historical Mystery

Barbara Hambly. Severn House, $31.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4483-1136-1

Hambly’s outstanding 20th whodunit featuring formerly enslaved doctor Benjamin January (after Death and Hard Cider) combines an eerie murder mystery with a vivid depiction of the antebellum South. In 1840, Benjamin is celebrating Christmas in Louisiana, where he’s managed to build a life with a few patients, a loving family, and occasional opportunities to play piano professionally. When Benjamin is reunited with Arithmus Wishart, whom he hasn’t seen in nearly 16 years, a mystery from his past comes roaring back. In 1825 France, Benjamin met Deverel Wishart, who claimed that he found Arithmus in a Sudanese desert, and that, though the man spoke “no known human language,” he possessed remarkable mathematical gifts. Not long after that, Deverel was found dead during a ghost hunt in a supposedly haunted chateau, and Arithmus, who disappeared soon afterwards, became a suspect. His reappearance leads Benjamin to reinvestigate Deverel’s death, and as he digs deeper into Arithmus’s past, he discovers surprising details about his own. Hambly isn’t content to rest on her laurels—she packs this installment with dueling timelines, fastidious period detail, and a consistently surprising investigation. This long-running series still shows plenty of life. Agent: Frances Collin, Frances Collin Literary. (Jan.)