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Graveyard Dust by Barbara Hambly

Graveyard Dust (1999)

by Barbara Hambly

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Benjamin January (3)

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390742,234 (3.98)46



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I appreciated Ms. Hambly's sensitive treatment of voodoo, which parallels my own experience of it in Kumasi, Ghana in the late 70s. She did have an error on the Biblical side; it wasn't Gideon, but Joshua, who made the sun stand still. (p.243)
I have my favorite bits - the protagonist's slow healing from grief, for one, but pain is described just as well, such as "Or was she still treating her son with frozen politeness tempered by martyered courage?" (p.296)
Ms. Hambly says things I want to believe - "Forgiveness is stronger than the graveyard dust of the past" (p.303) One of the reasons I read novels is to see this demonstrated, because it's so hard to believe.

( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
This is No. 3 in Hambly's Benjamin January series. Unfortunately, the shortcomings I noted in the first two books continue here, and I just couldn't keep going this time. The setting really appeals to me, and January is an interesting character. But I find Hambly's style monotonous; secondary characters don't come to life and I lose track of who's who because they mostly get talked about, not seen in action; again I was finding her emphasis on the obvious heavy-handed and repetitive. Free people of color in 19th century New Orleans had as much reason to fear for their safety as slaves, or former slaves, yeah I get it---even when she shows the reader that this is true, she finds it necessary for her characters to tell us what we just saw. I couldn't make myself care who killed Isaak (if he's even dead, which I doubt) and I was fairly sure that somehow January would get his sister cleared of the charge, but I wasn't too curious about how....so I quit about 150 pages in. This series should be much better than it is, and it makes me sad. Despite my interest in the multi-leveled milieu of the time and place, which carried me through A Free Man of Color, I barely made it to the end of Fever Season, and could not finish Graveyard Dust. It just isn't enough of a factor to keep me reading these rather tedious books.
  laytonwoman3rd | Nov 30, 2017 |
This is the third book in the Benjamin January series and I am even more impressed than ever how Hambly is able to put you in the mind of a free man of color in 1830s Louisiana, which has just become a state that has been "invaded" by the Americans, according to the old Creole families who are quite set in their ways and see the Americans as crude and uncivilized. In this book, she explores the world of Voodoo.

January's sister, Olympe, a Voodoo healer, has just been arrested for selling poison to a free woman of color, Celie, in order for her to kill her husband, Isaak Jumon, whose body has not been found, yet. Jumon's brother Antoine, while drunk, and possibly drugged is captured and led to a house where he finds his brother dying with his wife's words on his lips. Now, Isaak is set to inherit land and money from his white father, which has caused his mother to claim him as her slave that has run away, in order to get his inheritance. His white uncle, whom Isaak is close to is doing his best to help January, but he also has a stake in this inheritance.

January seeks help from various places, including the Creoles, the Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau, and runaway slaves who have knowledge of where Isaak was during his last days. January, may be a Catholic now, but he was living on the plantation before being freed, he participated in some of the celebration dances with the compelling drums and music that speaks to a part of his soul. Someone curses his room with graveyard dust, which is a death curse, and while he would like to think he does not believe in these things, deep down he does. Marie is called in to help cleanse the room and recommends that he wear protection, but he refuses, as his Catholic sensibilities will not allow him to do so.

While Olympe languishes in a prison that has an outbreak of yellow fever that is being covered up, the clock is ticking and if these two women go to trial, they will surely be found guilty just for the color of their skins and the fact that Olympe practices Voodoo. A body is found and Isaak's mother claims that it is him, but it is not. So where is he and what has happened to him? January discovers that he did spend some time in a hidden spot of New Orleans where runaway slaves go, but has no idea of where he went from there. There is also another player in this game: an evil Voodoo practitioner who is up to no good.

January does not have a lot of time to find the clues that will lead to who killed Isaak and save his sister and Ceclie and he lacks the usual help he gets from Lieutenant Shaw, who is away on some other matter that January knows nothing about. This book gives you an inside look into the world of Voodoo, both the good and the bad sides of it. And the mystery of Isaacs's possible death and mysteriously missing body only add to strangeness going on in a town where strangeness is the norm.

January must avoid a group of men who are trying to kill him in order to keep him from finding out the truth, which is way bigger than the death of one man. Will January be able to save the two women's practically guaranteed death sentence or will the Voodoo death curse come and claim him before he can? ( )
  ladynicolai | Dec 7, 2016 |
This is the third Benjamin January historical mystery. This one focuses on voodoo and related African-derived beliefs and practices. The conflict revolves around the need to clear January's sister Olympe, a voodoo practitioner, of a charge of murder in the death of a young white man. ( )
  Carol_W | May 5, 2016 |
The world and characters a vividly drawn and well-researched; the mystery is engaging. But I had a lot of trouble keeping all the characters straight and I'm still not sure I completely understand the mystery itself--I've never been more grateful for the "detective sums it all up" final chapter. ( )
  calmclam | Nov 15, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hambly, Barbaraprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Seder, JasonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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African drums in darkness sullen as tar.
Rossini's "Di tanti palpiti" unspooling like golden ribbon from the ballroom's open windows.
Church bells and thunder.
Benjamin January flexed his aching shoulders and thought, Rain coming.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553575287, Mass Market Paperback)

Benjamin January's life is such a mixture of exotic elements and influences that Barbara Hambly's historical mysteries about him often seem to be in danger of exploding. There's his very black skin in a society that equates lightness to class; his shaky status as a free man in 1830s slave-owning New Orleans; the music that he loves but now has to play at parties to make a living because he can't practice as a doctor in America. Graveyard Dust, the third in Hambly's fine series, adds the murky religion of voodoo to the mixture. Ben's older sister, Olympe, practices that ancient art and winds up being charged with murder by a frightened and suspicious police force. Then there's the yellow fever epidemic that has broken out, threatening not only public health but the financial future of several powerful citizens.

What keeps the book on track across all this colorful terrain is Hambly's uncanny ability to constantly show us the connections to our own place and time. January is always recognizable as our representative of strength and morality, even if he seems at times to be carrying unbearable burdens. Few mysteries have as much humanity and history in their list of ingredients. --Dick Adler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:36 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In 19th century New Orleans, free man of color Benjamin January tries to clear the name of his sister, a voodoo practitioner. She is accused of supplying the arsenic which a woman used to kill her husband.

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