Think of New Orleans. What comes to mind? Mardi Gras, for sure.
French Quarter? You bet. What about voodoo? During the
early and mid-1800s Marie Laveau and Docteur John held sway over
the voodoo community, and by extension, the city of New Orleans.
Marie Laveau had an extensive network of informants which made her
seem omnipresent, and her influence in the city extends even to
this day. One of the eerier sights of New Orleans is Laveau's tomb
in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, early in the morning, laden with fresh
voodoo fetishes and offerings.
GRAVEYARD DUST, Barbara Hambly's third of hopefully many books
featuring Benjamin January, continues Ms. Hambly's pattern of
interweaving a tightly written, intricately plotted story with a
historical facet of New Orleans. A FREE MAN OF COLOR contained a
wealth of information about the quadroon balls, and the
relationship between protector and placee. FEVER SEASON utilized
the summer pandemics of cholera and yellow fever as a backdrop for
an intricate tale of murder and deceit. And now, GRAVEYARD DUST
delves into the intricate and complex world of voodoo practice in
1834 New Orleans.
Benjamin January's world turns upside down when his sister Olympe
--- herself a voodoo practitioner and follower of Marie Laveau ---
is accused of poisoning Isaak Jumon in concert with Isaak's wife,
Celie. The evidence seems somewhat tenuous against them --- Isaak's
body has never been found, and the only evidence is the testimony
of Antoine, Isaak's besotted brother, who claims to have heard the
dying Isaak incriminate his wife. Given the time, 1834, the place,
New Orleans, and the circumstances of the two women, both being of
color --- their chances for justice appear to be slim. Olympe's
reputation as a voodoo practitioner only complicates matters
January must determine who would want to frame Olympe for a murder
which may never have happened --- and why. While he is not without
informational resources of his own, he soon finds that he has been
targeted for death himself by an assassin and a voodoo
practitioner. January finds that he has no choice but to continue
his investigation and uncover the truth in order to save both
Olympe's life and his own, even though he puts himself and those he
loves at greater risk with each stone he unturns.
GRAVEYARD DUST is a worthy successor to A FREE MAN OF COLOR and
FEVER SEASON. Barbara Hambly has again, by exhaustive research
filtered through her multifaceted talent, created a breathtaking
picture of a society and culture no longer with us but which
nonetheless continues to influence our lives and times.
Reviewed by Joe Hartaub on January 22, 2011