Death and Hard Cider – Barbara Hambly (Benjamin January #19)

I am a long time fan of the Benjamin January series and all of the continuing characters –who are present and very satisfying in this installment. There are a couple of well-plotted mysteries and plenty of intrigue. The setting remains set in New Orleans and surrounds, this time, with no one traveling. Henry Clay comes to town to campaign for William Henry Harrison (Tippiecanoe and Tyler too). It’s 1840 and the Whigs are pulling out all kinds of campaign strategies with this slogan and songs, parades and rallies where music and hard cider add to the general uproar about the campaign.. Ben views slave holder Clay positively, because he thinks about slavery as a problem requiring attention. Clay was a founder of the American Colonization Society that resettled free people of color to Africa. Some who are opposed to slavery and enslaved people in the area might not view him so charitably as he finds ways in Congress to appease the south to avoid secession.

We find Ben happy for the fact that he has some summer music jobs thanks to the campaign, but somewhat hard pressed to pull together enough musicians for some of the organizer’s requests. And at each gathering is Marie-Joyeuse, the stunningly beautiful sixteen year old vamp, daughter of a failing plantation owner. She is cousin to * Damien Aubin, recently married to a “mad” woman and unfailingly in love with this beautiful girl-woman. Marie-Joyeuse loves to have men fight and even duel over her. I would say that this is a novel where it would have been helpful to have a list in the front of all the new characters and their connections to one another including Marie-Joyeuse’s would be suitors, their family members, their placees, if relevant and their financial status. The sheer number of characters were necessary to the storylines but totally confusing to a person who reads too quickly. (Guilty!)

I will always and forever follow this series, learning about the complex society of white and black New Orleans, the variations of experiences among the enslaved and free people, the in between rental slaves, the special status of placees and so forth. Each book teaches me about cultural and political aspects of this period. Just a completely fabulous experience from each entry and one of the few sets of books I kept when I down sized my collection. Recommend!

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