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Fever Season
Cover of Fever Season
Fever Season
Benjamin January Series, Book 2

Benjamin January made his debut in bestselling author Barbara Hambly's A Free Man of Color, a haunting mélange of history and mystery. Now he returns in another novel of greed, madness, and murder amid the dark shadows and dazzling society of old New Orleans, named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times.

The summer of 1833 has been one of brazen heat and brutal pestilence, as the city is stalked by Bronze John--the popular name for the deadly yellow fever epidemic that tests the healing skills of doctor and voodoo alike. Even as Benjamin January tends the dying at Charity Hospital during the steaming nights, he continues his work as a music teacher during the day.

When he is asked to pass a message from a runaway slave to the servant of one of his students, January finds himself swept into a tempest of lies, greed, and murder that rivals the storms battering New Orleans. And to find the truth he must risk his freedom...and his very life.

From the Paperback edition.

Benjamin January made his debut in bestselling author Barbara Hambly's A Free Man of Color, a haunting mélange of history and mystery. Now he returns in another novel of greed, madness, and murder amid the dark shadows and dazzling society of old New Orleans, named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times.

The summer of 1833 has been one of brazen heat and brutal pestilence, as the city is stalked by Bronze John--the popular name for the deadly yellow fever epidemic that tests the healing skills of doctor and voodoo alike. Even as Benjamin January tends the dying at Charity Hospital during the steaming nights, he continues his work as a music teacher during the day.

When he is asked to pass a message from a runaway slave to the servant of one of his students, January finds himself swept into a tempest of lies, greed, and murder that rivals the storms battering New Orleans. And to find the truth he must risk his freedom...and his very life.

From the Paperback edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    Midday, the molten September heat raised steam from the water in the French town's cypress-lined gutters and the rain puddles in the soupy streets. Mephitic light filtered through clouds of steamboat soot from the levees and gave the town the look of a grimy but inexplicably pastel-walled hell. Only those whose errands were pressing walked the streets then.

    So it took no great cleverness on Benjamin January's part to realize that he was being followed.

    Charity Hospital, where he'd spent the night and all the morning among the dying, lay on the uptown side of Canal Street, the American side. It was against January's nature to spend more time on that side of town than was absolutely necessary, to say nothing of the fact that Americans seemed to regard all free persons of color as potential slaves, money on the hoof going to waste that could be going into their pockets in the big markets along Baronne and Levee Streets. Americans made no distinction, as the French were careful to do, between African blacks--be they slaves or freedmen--and the free persons of color whose parents had been both colored and white. Not, January reflected wryly, that it made a great deal of difference in his case.

    But even in fever season, when men and women, black and white and colored, were only hands to hold off Bronze John from one another--to carry water and vinegar and saline draughts, to fan away the humming swarms of mosquitoes and flies--he felt uneasy uptown.

    Maybe that was why he realized so quickly that someone was dogging his steps.

    His head ached from twenty-four hours without sleep. His senses felt dulled, as if someone had carefully stuffed his skull with dirty lint soaked in the stinking fluids of the dying; his very bones weighed him down. His last patient that day had been a nine-year-old girl who'd walked the twelve streets to the hospital from the levee where she'd been selling oranges. Her mama, she said in English, before delirium claimed her, would whale her for not staying on to finish the day. The child had died before she could tell anyone who her mama was or where that lady could be found.

    As of that morning, no newspaper in the town had yet admitted that there was an epidemic at all.

    The fever had first come to New Orleans in January's sixteenth year. In those days you never heard English spoken at all, though the city already belonged to the United States. He'd been studying medicine then with Dr. Gomez and had followed his teacher on his rounds of the hospitals; it seemed to him now, twenty-four years later, that the ache of grief and pity never grew less. Nor did his fear of the fever itself.

    He wasn't sure exactly what it was that made him realize he was being stalked.

    A glimpse from the corner of his eye as he dodged across Jackson Street among the ambulance wagons, the produce carts, the drays of sugar and indigo on their way to the levee from the inland plantations along the lake. A horse lurched to a stop, tossed its head with an angry snort. A driver cursed in Spanish. Steps away, Freret Street lay deserted under the hot weight of brazen sky, but January knew he wasn't alone. He quickened his stride.

    If he walked down Canal Street, among the hip-high weeds, strewn garbage, and dead dogs of what French and Americans alike called the "neutral ground," he would be spared at least some of the stenches of the cemeteries. There seething corpses lined the walls three-deep, like bales on the levee, waiting for tomb space and the men to bear them in. But though he was an accredited member of the Paris College of Surgeons who had practiced at the Hôtel Dieu in that city for six years, January was...

About the Author-
  • Barbara Hambly is the author of The Emancipator's Wife, a finalist for the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. She is also the author of Fever Season, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and seven acclaimed historical novels.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 29, 1998
    Learned black surgeon Benjamin January returns from his debut as protagonist in A Free Man of Color (1997) to utilize his considerable skills in a graphic and compelling story based on events that transpired in 1834. The Paris-trained physician, still grieving for his recently deceased wife, is back in New Orleans after a 16-year absence and his now treating the victims of a raging cholera epidemic. But his position at Charity Hospital is precarious--accepted in his own mixed-race society, he is scorned by most whites. Now, even in the chaotic mayhem of an epidemic, January becomes aware of a disturbing fact: free people of color are disappearing. Are they dying? Are they being abducted to be resold as slaves? Although chronically fatigued from his multiple occupations (he gives piano lessons to eke out his income) and the demands of his eccentric family, he nonetheless manages to begin a discreet investigation that will involve some unique and idiosyncratic individuals including street people, con men and aristocrats. He even forms an unlikely alliance with a coarse, yet astute, white police lieutenant. January's queries are further complicated by the disappearance of his friend Cora, who may be implicated in theft and murder. Complex in plotting, rich in atmosphere and written in powerful, lucid prose, this compelling mystery holds its secrets until a horrifying, compelling finale.

  • King Features Syndicate

    "Superb. Exciting and compelling."

  • The New York Times Book Review "Stunning. From the highborn Creoles to the uncivilized Americans, Hambly knows all their secrets and brings them all to life."
  • Washington Times "Fever Season reaffirms Hambly's claim to be a notable writer of mystery fiction."
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Benjamin January Series, Book 2
Barbara Hambly
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