In such stunning novels of crime and character as Die Upon a Kiss, Sold Down the River, and A Free Man of Color, Benjamin January tracked down killers through the sensuous, atmospheric, dangerously beautiful world of Old New Orleans. Now, in this new novel by bestselling author Barbara Hambly, he follows a trail of murder from illicit back alleys to glittering mansions to a dark place where the oldest and deadliest secrets lie buried . . .
It’s 1835 and the relentless glare of the late July sun has slowed New Orleans to a standstill. When Hesione LeGros--once a corsair’s jeweled mistress, now a raddled hag--is found slashed to death in a shanty on the fringe of New Orleans’s most lawless quarter, there are few to care. But one of them is Benjamin January, musician and teacher. He well recalls her blazing ebony beauty when she appeared, exquisitely gowned and handy with a stiletto, at a demimonde banquet years ago.
Who would want to kill this woman now--Hessy, they said, would turn a trick for a bottle of rum--had some quarrelsome “customer” decided to do away with her? Or could it be one of the sexual predators who roamed the dark and seedy streets? Or--as Benjamin comes to suspect--was her killer someone she knew, someone whose careful search of her shack suggests a cold-blooded crime? Someone whose boot left a chillingly distinctive print . . .
His inquiries at taverns, markets, and slave dances reveal little about “Hellfire Hessy” since her glory days in Barataria Bay, once the lair of gentlemen pirates. Then the murder is swept from his mind by the delivery of a crate filled with contraband rifles--and yet another telltale boot print left by its claimant. When a murder swiftly follows, Ben and Rose Vitrac, the woman he loves, fear the workings of a serpentine mind and a treacherous plot: one only they can hope to thwart in time.
All too soon they are fugitives of color in the stormy bayous and marshes of slave-stealer country, headed for smugglers’ haunts and sinister plantations, where one false step could be their last toward a...Wet Grave.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of Suspense & Thrillers eBook: Wet Grave||Series: A Benjamin January Novel, , #6|
|Release Date: 04-29-2003|
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Chapter OneThe only time Benjamin January ever actually exchanged words with Hesione LeGros was when they were both hiding behind a piano in a New Orleans hotel hoping they wouldn't be massacred by pirates.
It wasn't a long conversation.
She said, "I'm gonna shoot that fuckin' man of mine for this."
And January-who had just turned nineteen and was hoping to make twenty-replied, "What makes you think any of us will live to see you do that?"
As it happened, someone else shot her man a number of years later in the Yucatan, but at the time January hoped that the dark-eyed little African Venus beside him would have that honor, and fairly soon. The man certainly deserved it.
The whole debacle began, tamely enough, with the arrival in New Orleans of Major-General Jean Robert Marie Humbert, formerly of the Grand Army of Napoleon. Humbert, in that year of 1812, was avoiding Napoleon's various domains because of opinions he'd rashly expressed after the Little Emperor had relieved him of command. Some said this was because Humbert's army had ignominiously failed to re-conquer the island of Saint-Domingue from rebelling slaves. But January's mother-a clearinghouse for gossip concerning both the white and the free colored communities in New Orleans-was of the opinion that Humbert's affair with Napoleon's sister had something to do with it.
"Though I don't see why Napoleon should cut up stiff over Humbert," Livia Janvier had added, pinning an aigrette of diamonds to the confection of rose-colored silk and plumes that covered her hair. She studied the result critically in the mirror. "The woman's slept with his entire general s...