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Sold Down the River (Benjamin January, Book 4) Mass Market Paperback – May 29, 2001


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Sold Down the River (Benjamin January, Book 4) + Fever Season (Benjamin January, Book 2) + A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Book 1)
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Bantam Mass Market Ed edition (May 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553575295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553575293
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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The mystery is very intriguing.
David Roy
Of the four Benjamin January books I've read so far (I'm a late-comer to the series), this one was the hardest to get through.
Millicent Margaret Amanda
Kudos to Hambly for the extensive cultural and historic research that accompanies everyBenjamin Janvier novel.
Jacqui Love Marshall

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What will you do for love? Love of self, love of others, of family, friends and children? If hate is the other side of love, what will you be driven to do? Could you kill? Strike out at whoever is there, or cooly plan a vengeance so horrible solely because someone else will take the weight? Is there such a thing as making amends? Is saying "oops" saying sorry? The book is a shout of rage, the rage of Ben Janvier, of Simon Fourchet, of the Africans, of white women, set in the cool of fall amidst the heat of the cane harvest. Ms Hambly has used heat as a metaphor in all of the books of this series, but here the heat is man made, a hell of tiredness, of flame, of revenge,of love. I enjoyed the book, unable to put it down once the characters were set and the plot moved towards it's end. There were no winners, since everyone was damaged, or had been damaged, in some way before the story begins, or during it. Lives moved on, but the ties remain, and while we finally learn more about Ben's life prior to New Orleans, we also learn a little more about the motivation of his mother, and those like her, who have made a choice many women, if asked, would reject. Jeanette didn't make the choice, and I liked the contrast between her situation with Ben's mother's choice, and why, knowing what it would cost her son, she pressed him to take on the undercover assignment. I agree that the ending was a little contrived, but it is in the end a minor quibble. No one who reads the book will not be in the hold of that steamboat,and feel the heat,the desperation of everyone on board. Ms Hambly has done it again. When is the next Ben Janvier book due?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on July 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In 1834 New Orleans, Benjamin January hopes to make some money to support himself and his mother by providing piano lessons. However, his livelihood is interrupted when his former slave master, the cruel Simon Fourchet demands he help him discover who is causing havoc at Mon Triomphe Plantation. Ben remains concerned for what Simon is capable of doing to all the slaves at his two plantations. However, he also has been there, done that, and has Simon's whip marks from a beating when he was seven to prove it. In spite of his personal fears, Ben reluctantly agrees to investigate.

Someone has destroyed much of the sugar cane crop and left voodoo messages on the mill's walls. The masters believe this Turner wannabe has aroused the sentiments that easily could boil into a slave uprising. Worried about the white man's retaliation towards everyone with black skin, Ben goes undercover as a slave on the embattled plantation. As Ben makes quiet inquiries, he remembers with this new experience how humiliating being a slave is and worries that he might never regain his freedom.

SOLD DOWN THE RIVER includes a great mystery with excellent characters. However, what makes this Americana fiction must reading is the depth of the period interwoven into the plot. It feels as if the audience is seeing first hand the perilous life of a slave on a plantation. The excellent who-done-it is cleverly designed and disguised. However, as with its predecessors (see A FREE MAN OF COLOR, FEVER SEASON, and GRAVEYARD DUST), this novel is a welcomed period piece that should bring much acclaim and many awards to Barbara Hambley.

Harriet Klausner
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've always been a fan of Hambly's and the Benjamin January series has been a great favorite for not only the excellent, believable charactors and solid storylines, but the little details. The motivations for the charactor's actions and the way they react come through, especially in this book. A regular reviewer would put it this way: Ben finds himself pursuing justice on a plantation run by a brutal former master, and the difficulties with reconciling with his past as well as the prejudices he faces get in the way of his investigation.
But it is much more - one sees motivations and the way that friendships develop under adverse conditions, and what prices people pay to protect themselves and their loved ones to the best of thier abilities. And how people reconciliate thier actions to themselves.
Yes, there are a few spots that are a little jarring to the consistancy, and a bit of a deux ex machina at the end, but in all, the plot development, the charactors, and the logical actions and reactions blended quite well - as well as the historical and location feel.
When Ms. Hambly is your historical tour guide, you can feel the mists and swampy miasma rise around you as you make your way through the cypress tangles bordering the cane fields along the river...
You won't get sold down the river with this one...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jack Fitzgerald VINE VOICE on December 20, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Sold Down the River" is the fourth book in Barbara Hambly's series about Benjamin Janvier, a free man of color in 19th century New Orleans. Ben was born a slave, but his mother caught the eye of a white man, St. Denis Janvier, who purchased her along with her son and daughter. Educated in languages as well as becoming a surgeon, and classically trained as a pianist, Ben currently makes his living giving piano lessons and playing at various balls in New Orleans.

Things change suddenly when his mother's original owner, a despicable sugar plantation magnate, Simon Fourchet, comes calling and asks Ben to pose as a slave in order to find out who is sabotaging his sugar harvest and trying to kill him.

This is one of Hambly's most intense outing yet, and Ben is put into some considerable peril while trying to unravel the various threads to find out who caused the murders of several slaves as well as damaged some key equipment.

Posing as the slave of his friend, the consumptive violinist Hannibal Sefton, the two travel upriver to Fourchet's plantation, Mon Triomphe. There, Ben must adapt the language of a field hand and muster all of his strength of character to restrain himself as he witnessess the cruelty of overseers and Fourchet himself. Hambly does not use the delicate issue of slavery of window dressing, but addresses it head on, and there are some visceral and graphic scenes depicted here.

Meanwhile, Ben must get in with both the field hands and the house servants as well as gaining knowledge about the white family controlling the plantation. The plot is intricately woven, and there are several surprises awaiting Ben. Luckily, his friend, Abishag Shaw, has given him a way to communicate by tying colorful bandannas to a tree and changing them daily.
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