Cover image for Sold down the river
Title:
Sold down the river
Author:
Hambly, Barbara.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
xii, 317 pages : map, plan ; 24 cm
General Note:
Sequel to: Graveyard dust.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780553102574
Format :
Book

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Status
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

InA Free Man of Color,Fever Season, andGraveyard Dust, Benjamin January penetrated the murkiest corners of glittering old New Orleans to bring murderers to justice. Now, in bestselling author Barbara Hambly's haunting new novel, he explores a vivid and violent plantation world darker than anything in the city....  Sold Down the River. The crisp autumn air of 1834 awakens the French Town to a new season of balls and operas.  But this November there will be no waltzes played by Benjamin January, no piano lessons for Creole children.  For a shadow has emerged from his past-Simon Fourchet, the savage man to whom he was bound in slavery until the age of seven.  When someone he cannot refuse asks the favor, Benjamin reluctantly agrees to reenter the realm of his childhood on Fourchet's upriver sugar plantation. Abandoning his Parisian French for the African patois of a field hand, Benjamin sets out to uncover who and what lies behind the sinister happenings there.  On All Souls' night, at the dark of the moon, a fire was started in the mill.  A field gang's food has been poisoned and the butler murdered.  And voodoo curse marks appear everywhere.  If the villain cannot be discovered, every slave on Mon Triomphe will be condemned to what passes for justice. Cutting cane from dawn to nightfall, until his bones ache and his musician's hands bleed, Benjamin strives to unlock the riddle.  Are these the omens of a slave revolt, or something more personal?  As acts of sabotage mount and voodoo signs multiply, he ponders the family in the big house:  Fourchet's pale and pious new wife, his two grown sons, and his shrewish daughter-in-law.  Then the inhabitants of the slave quarters: a proud and secretive cook, young lovers torn apart by a brutal overseer, men and women who long for loved ones sold away.  And what of the neighboring planter, feuding with Fourchet over a piece of land...  or the elusive river trader who knows so many of the servants' secrets? Somewhere in the warp and weft of these people's lives lurks Benjamin's quarry-whose scheming could destroy not just Fourchet but all his kin and every human being he owns. And Benjamin January must use all his intelligence and cunning to find the killer, before he finds himself...  Sold Down the River.


Author Notes

Barbara Hambly lives in Los Angeles, where she is at work on the sixth Benjamin January novel, "Wet Grave", which Bantam will publish in 2002. Her second Benjamin January novel, "Fever Season", was named a "New York Times" Notable Book of the Year.

(Publisher Provided) Barbara Hambly was born in San Diego, California on August 28, 1951. She received a master's degree in medieval history from the University of California at Riverside in 1975. She has worked as a high-school teacher, a model, a waitress, a technical editor, and a karate instructor. At one time, she also wrote scripts for cartoons like Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and He-Man.

She writes many different types of books including fantasy, romance, and mystery. Her works include the Darwath Trilogy, the Benjamin January Mysteries series, Those Who Hunt the Night, The Emancipator's Wife, Someone Else's Shadow, and Patriot Ladies. She has also written for the Star Trek universe, the Star Wars universe, and the Beauty and the Beast television program. She is a Locus award winner.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The latest in Hambly's series featuring freed slave and sleuth Benjamin January is difficult to read, given its graphic depiction of the horrors of slavery. Reluctantly, January agrees to go undercover as a slave for his former owner, Simon Fourchet, to help determine who is sabotaging the cruel owner's plantation. January's motivation is not to help Fourchet, of course, but to stop the reprisals that the slaves will undergo until the guilty party is found. Hambly has done her research, and her depictions of what slaves endured in nineteenth-century New Orleans are brutally realistic. Every bit as jarring as the physical torture is the psychological abuse January must absorb from Fourchet and his despicable henchmen. Hambly effectively combines three genres--mystery, historical fiction, mainstream melodrama--in this disturbing but quite moving story. --Jenny McLarin


Publisher's Weekly Review

The darkest time in American history comes alive in Hambley's unforgettable series of mysteries, of which this is the fourth, after Graveyard Dust. In 1835 New Orleans, Benjamin January is a Paris-educated surgeon and musician, but he's also a former slave. Along with white American policeman Abishag Shaw, Ben is asked to help out on an investigation into possible sabotage and murder at a sugar plantation up the river from the city. The catch is that the person asking is his former owner, the thoroughly evil Simon Fourchet. Ben must go to Fourchet's plantation, Mon Triomphe, and work undercover as a slave, chopping the sugarcane in the fields. Ben agrees to take on the dreadful job because he knows that if the "hoodoo" isn't found quickly, the lives and well-being of many slaves will be in jeopardy. Already, "les blankittes" (the whites) believe a slave revolt is brewing on the plantation, and their punishment of the slaves will surely be terrible if more incidents occur. In order to learn the truth, Ben has to undergo all the appalling and humiliating experiences that the plantation slaves routinely endure. Hambly's fiercely burning picture of the horrors of slavery inevitably overwhelms the specifics of the plot, but she evokes the period marvelously, piling detail upon detail to create a finely wrought portrait of the daily lives of slaves on the notorious Louisiana sugar plantations. And her mastery of the slave songs, the backbreaking labor of the harvest, the African-French-Creole culture and the medicine (both traditional and voodoo) is astonishing. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

The darkest time in American history comes alive in Hambley's unforgettable series of mysteries, of which this is the fourth, after Graveyard Dust. In 1835 New Orleans, Benjamin January is a Paris-educated surgeon and musician, but he's also a former slave. Along with white American policeman Abishag Shaw, Ben is asked to help out on an investigation into possible sabotage and murder at a sugar plantation up the river from the city. The catch is that the person asking is his former owner, the thoroughly evil Simon Fourchet. Ben must go to Fourchet's plantation, Mon Triomphe, and work undercover as a slave, chopping the sugarcane in the fields. Ben agrees to take on the dreadful job because he knows that if the "hoodoo" isn't found quickly, the lives and well-being of many slaves will be in jeopardy. Already, "les blankittes" (the whites) believe a slave revolt is brewing on the plantation, and their punishment of the slaves will surely be terrible if more incidents occur. In order to learn the truth, Ben has to undergo all the appalling and humiliating experiences that the plantation slaves routinely endure. Hambly's fiercely burning picture of the horrors of slavery inevitably overwhelms the specifics of the plot, but she evokes the period marvelously, piling detail upon detail to create a finely wrought portrait of the daily lives of slaves on the notorious Louisiana sugar plantations. And her mastery of the slave songs, the backbreaking labor of the harvest, the African-French-Creole culture and the medicine (both traditional and voodoo) is astonishing. (July) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

When someone ties you naked to a tree in the yard and beats you unconscious with a broom handle, you don't soon forget it, or him. "Ben, you remember Monsieur Fourchet," said his mother. Standing in the doorway of her parlor, Benjamin January felt the hair lift on his nape at the sight of the man beside the window. In the nightmares, he was taller. Fourchet turned from the long French door that looked out onto Rue Burgundy, and January saw that he was, in fact, just slightly under six feet tall: more than three inches shorter than his own towering height. That he was wide through the chest and shoulders, but without January's massive strength. In the nightmares his hair was black, not streaky gray and thin, and his face, although creased with a lifetime's rage and cruelty, didn't have the broken network of lines that gouged the sunken cheeks, bracketed the harsh mouth, accentuated the sag beneath the chin. The eyes were the same. Arrogant, dark, and cold. But the man had grown old. "I remember," he told his mother. "You've grown." Fourchet took a seat in one of the straw-colored chintz chairs of which January's mother was so proud. Between seven and forty-one I'd belong in a raree-show if I hadn't. January couldn't resist saying, "Monsieur Janvier fed me very well. Sir." Fourchet hadn't. The slaves on Fourchet's Bellefleur Plantation, where January had been born, had what were called provision lands, small plots where they could grow corn and yams. On most plantations these augmented whatever rations of cornmeal and salt pork the planter saw fit to distribute. On Bellefleur, Fourchet had skimped the women and the children; even out of harvest time, he had demanded extra work after the conch shell was blown at sunset, so that the provision grounds were neglected and choked with weeds. January remembered his aunts and uncles were always being whipped for stealing food. Fourchet sniffed. "Educated you, too, so your mother tells me." By the way the man said the words January knew that Fourchet had had his mother, probably many times in the years before he'd sold her to St.-Denis Janvier. Anger rose in him like vomit, and like vomit he swallowed it down. He glanced at Livia Levesque, slender and beautiful still at sixty-four, neat in her fashionable frock of yellow mull-muslin, on her head the tignon that New Orleans statute required all women of color to wear, striped yellow and white to match, and trimmed with lace. Her slim strong hands in crocheted house-mitts rested easy around the cup of pink-and-green German porcelain that held her coffee, and her dark wide beautiful eyes moved from man to man with an alert calculation that held not the smallest whisper of embarrassment, self-consciousness, or anger in the presence of her former master. The situation simply didn't bother her at all. "Monsieur Fourchet has come to ask our help, Ben," said his mother. Outside, in the Rue Burgundy, a brewer's dray rattled past, driven far too fast by a young man standing to the reins like a Roman charioteer; two women walking along the brick banquette squealed and sprang aside from the water thrown by the wheels. Even so far back from the levee the hoots of the steamboats could be heard, and the dim stirring of stevedores' shouts and vendors' cries. After summer's gluey horror, the autumn air was crisp. The city was resuming its wintertime bustle and prosperity. "Your name was given him by that dirty American policeman you take up with, but perhaps it's all to the best." That dirty American policeman was Abishag Shaw, lieutenant of the New Orleans City Guard. Though as a rule--like most of the citizens of the French town, white and colored alike--January mistrusted Americans profoundly, particularly those in positions of power, he liked Shaw and respected him. Still, his mother spoke no more than the truth. January folded his powerful arms and waited. He had not, he noticed, been invited to sit in the presence of a white man and his former master. Nor had his mother said, Get yourself some coffee, Ben. It was one thing for a white man to share coffee with a velvet-brown mulatto woman. White men did it all the time, in these small cottages at the rear of the French town. The custom of the country. For generations French and Spanish Creoles had taken free women of color as their mistresses, as St.-Denis Janvier had thirty-three years ago freed and then taken her. It was another thing--January could see this in her eyes, hear it in her artfully artless silence--to ask a white gentleman to sit in the same room drinking coffee with the coal-black son of a mulatto and a slave. In the eighteen months since his return from sixteen years in Paris--years in which he had practiced both surgery and music--January had never been permitted to forget that this house was his mother's, not his. If Simon Fourchet was conscious of any of this, he didn't show it. Maybe he accepted it as natural that a grown man wouldn't be permitted to drink coffee in the house where he lived, should a white man be seated there. "There's a secret campaign of deliberate destruction going on at Mon Triomphe," the planter said, glancing up at January from under the grizzled overhang of his brows. "Spoliation, arson, wrecking, ruin--and murder. And maybe open revolt." Mon Triomphe, January recalled, was Fourchet's other plantation. When Fourchet had sold Bellefleur--years after January, his mother, and his younger sister had been sold and freed--the planter had gone there permanently. It lay upriver in Ascension Parish, some twenty miles southeast of Baton Rouge. Twenty miles, that is, if you wanted to hack your way through cypress swamps and untamed woodland, instead of journeying twice the distance in half the time via steamboat on the river. Forty-two years ago--in 1793, the year of January's birth--Fourchet had managed Mon Triomphe himself and left Bellefleur in the care of his brother-in-law Gervase Duhamel, only returning there after the grueling hell of the roulaison--the sugar-grinding--was done. Bellefleur had lain close to the small, walled city of New Orleans, to which Fourchet brought his Spanish wife and their two children every year for the Carnival season. They lived in the big house at Bellefleur for the weeks between Twelfth Night and Easter; entertained guests there, something impossible in the isolated fastnesses of Ascension Parish. St.-Denis Janvier, who had eventually bought January's mother, had been one of those guests. In 1798, when January was five, there'd been a slave revolt on Mon Triomphe. It may have been fueled by rumor, hope, and the example of Christophe's rebellion in the island of Saint-Domingue, though the aunts and uncles and cousins whose cabins January had played in said that it started when a drunken Fourchet beat a young girl to death. Fourchet's wife and daughter died under the machetes of the infuriated slaves. The revolt was crushed, of course, but after that Fourchet sent his sister and her husband to Mon Triomphe, and ran Bellefleur himself. Excerpted from Sold down the River by Barbara Hambly All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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