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Wet Grave (Benjamin January, Book 6) Mass Market Paperback – April 29, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
The opens with the discovery of a brutal murder. Hellfire Hessy, a raddled drunk who lived in a rather lawless shanty on the fringes of New Orleans, is found slashed to death. Because the police are a no show (there is a more socially prominent case that they've been called in on), Benjamin's sister, Olympe, calls upon Benjamin to do something about Hessy's murder. Benjamin recognises the dead woman as being Hesione LeGros, once the mistress of one of Jean Lafitte's corsair captains. And even as Benjamin is marveling at Hesione's fall from grace -- to go from being a courtesan of some renown to a drunken hag in a matter of a few decades -- he notices that there are indications that Hesione's murder, far from being some sort of random act of violence was actually a premeditated one. For Hesione's murderer, had not only waited for her to return to her shack, but (s)he had also carried out a methodical search of the room and of all of Hesione's belongings. Who would have wanted to kill Hesione? Why was she killed now, when she has become one of the flotsam's of life? And what was the murderer looking for? Saddened and angered (because the police are doing nothing) by Hesione's murder, Benjamin decides to do some digging of his own, little expecting the strange twists that this investigation will take, and how it will impact on his life...
I know some reviewer somewhere decided that this novel started too slowly for his/her taste. I can only speculate that this reviewer has not read other Benjamin January mystery novels. And anyway, quite to the contray, "Wet Grave" did not start out slowly at all. Barbara Hambly always takes great care to create just the right tone and ambiance for her Benjamin January books. Some may decide that this care takes up too much time, preferring that the authour got to the nitty-gritty of mystery with little fanfare. All I can say is that I'm personally glad that Barbara Hambly cares about 'setting the stage' right. Because the care she takes always pays off in spades, and we benefit by getting a book that is fairly reeking with rich detail and atmosphere. I also like that all the books in this series ("Wet Grave") included unfolds in a lyrical and smooth manner, and that she always peppers her novels with (usually) little discussed historical bits about what life was like for the free men and women colour, esp the placees. This entire series makes for avid reading, and "Wet Grave" is as brilliant and absorbing a read as the other books in the series.
And it was like finding an oasis after being lost in the desert. We're back with Ben, Rose, Abishag Shaw, and the city of New Orleans in the 1830's, with all the caste, class and racial striations on full view. It still amazes me how Ms Hambly gets inside of her characters, black and white, and everything in betweeen, presenting her reader with people you feel like you know. Chloe St Chinian was the most surprising character for me, after Rose Vitrac's metamorphosis of course. I missed Hannibal, and I like Shaw so much, filth and all. I just see Johnny Depp playing him, don't know why.And Dominique has become one of my faves, after Olympe and Ben of course. I even like Livia, their repressed and vicious mother. Contrast her with Hesione, and you see a "there but for the grace of God" situation.
I enjoyed it immensely, even the somewhat contrived happy ending for all concerned.
When is book seven coming out?
I was worried when Dragonstar disappointed me. I needn't have. This is an excellent work of historical fiction, which outshines the book immediately before it in the series and is as good as the series' best.
Far from being "excruciatingly slow", the opening of the book is fascinating. It shows us the character of a murdered woman, before time and an unforgiving society take their toll. It also sets up plot elements that will be important later, and gives us a glimpse into a world of privateers, adventurers, and pirates pure and simple.
From there, Wet Grave rockets on a twisting, turning path. January tries to find out who murdered a woman who was once the mistress of pirates. Meanwhile, a more high-profile murder on a plantation is more demanding of the police's time. Through alligators, gun-running, hurricanes, more murders and various thugs, the madcap plot speeds on to one of the best climaxes I've read. But despite the speed and the melodramatic elements, the book never loses touch with human emotions. At times it is both powerful and moving.
Characterization is excellent. I can't end the review without mentioning that one of my favorite characters in all of historical fiction, Lieutenant Shaw, gets a huge role here, and his vivid combination of the uncouth and the heroic comes across perfectly. (If I had psychic powers, I'd make the author write a book just about him.) January and Rose develop too, continuing to be believable, human characters.
If I have a criticism, it's that the final conclusion is epilogue-style, going into a distanced ominiscient viewpoint. I didn't mind that, but I suspect some readers may.
This is excellent historical fiction: wonderfully researched, gripping, moving, and relevant without being preachy. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As in other books I have read with Benjamin January as the primary character, He experiences many...Read more