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    Review of Graveyard Dust by Barbara Hambly (see her website)


    Bantam, May 2000

    Review by Jennifer Vilches

    Benjamin January, musician, doctor and free man of color, navigates the dangerous world of 19th century New Orleans. When his sister Olympe, a voodooienne, is accused of murder he knows that he will have to find the truth, because justice for the colored is hard to find. The risk to Olympe increases as yellow fever breaks out in the jail. And when January's life is targeted as well, by knife and by voodoo curse, he knows that time is running out. January's frantic search for the truth wanders through all levels of New Orleans society, from high class French Creoles, to the voodoo queen Marie Laveau, to a runaway slave village in the swamps.

    Author Barbara Hambly's obvious attention to detail and research is impressive and lends a gritty, believable reality to the New Orleans of 1834. The story is gripping, the setting is fascinating, and the characters are compelling. Hambly doesn't pull any punches in depicting the darker side of human nature and it is present in full force, not the least in the everyday injustices experienced by slaves and the free colored. But the good side of human nature makes enough of an appearance to mitigate the bleak outlook. January's budding relationship with Rose Vitrac is touching as is his friendship with fellow musician and Irishman Hannibal.

    The action in the book is interspersed with a lot of soul searching by January as he tries to reconcile his Christianity with his sister's belief in voodoo. It's an interesting debate and it doesn't bog down the flow of the book. Some will find the descriptions of slavery and racism difficult to take, but Hambly in no way romanticizes the customs of the times.

    See more reviews of novels by Barbara Hambly.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 5/18/04

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