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A Free Man of Color (original 1997; edition 1997)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553575260, Mass Market Paperback)In Barbara Hambly's rich and poignant thriller, it's 1833 and Ben January--a man of mixed blood making his living as a musician because he's not allowed to practice surgery--is back home in New Orleans after years of freedom in Paris. Trying to walk a caste line more complicated than India's, January risks his precarious position to investigate the killing of a young woman who--like his own younger, lighter half-sister--is the mistress of a wealthy white man. What has changed most in New Orleans while Ben was away is the influence of the white Americans: rough, ignorant, instinctively racist. Only one of these--a policeman named Abishag Shaw--seems to understand that January is at least as smart and valuable as he is, and even he at times appears to be ready to side with the white majority and pin the crime on Ben.
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:54 -0400)
"A romantic suspense novel set in 19th century New Orleans. 'Benjamin January, a free Creole with dark brown skin, has returned to this society after living in Paris for more than a decde. He is trained as a surgeon, but in Louisiana, he makes his living playing the piano. Soon he is the main suspect in the death of a wealthy man's young mistress, found murdered at a ball. January spends the rest of the book gathering evidence in his defense.'" Libr J. "A few suspenseful moments not-withstanding, this isn't an action-packed or suspenseful whodunit. Rather, it's a richly detailed, telling portrait of an intricately structured racial hierarchy." Booklist.
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