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Sold Down the River (Benjamin January #4)

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  694 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In A Free Man of Color, Fever Season, and Graveyard Dust, Benjamin January penetrated the murkiest corners of glittering old New Orleans to bring murderers to justice. Now, in bestselling author Barbara Hambly's haunting new novel, he explores a vivid and violent plantation world darker than anything in the city....Sold Down the River.

The crisp autumn air of 1834 awakens t
ebook, 432 pages
Published January 26th 2011 by Bantam (first published 2000)
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Rachel Brown
Slavery shaped Benjamin January’s life; he and his sister Olympe were born slaves, before his mother was purchased as a mistress. It’s been a prominent part of the background of previous books. But it takes center stage here, when the man Ben least wants to meet again— Fourchet, his cruel previous owner— offers to hire him to go undercover as a slave on his plantation, to investigate a murder and possible brewing slave rebellion.

It’s the last thing Ben wants to do. But he needs the money. More
As the January series goes on, the setting for each story changes; in this story, January travels incog to the estate of his old master to discover just who is trying to kill the old man. It's a real treat. An entire series set amidst the cruelty and uncertainty of living as a slave on a sugarcane plantation would be hard to take, but seeing it from the outside is not only bearable, it's hugely interesting. Having met whites and free-coloreds of every stripe, now the series spends serious time w ...more
Like the blurb says, Benjamin Janvier agrees to go undercover on a sugar cane plantation in order to uncover the perpetrator of deadly sabotage and outright murder.

I suppose that once you have accepted that the educated and cosmopolitan Janvier willingly stays in New Orleans, where he is treated as something sub-human, instead of returning to Europe, then it's not too much of a stretch to believe he'd go undercover as a slave on a freaking plantation. I mean, Janvier gives his reasons - he needs
Rebecca Huston
Out of all of the series so far, this one has to be one of the strongest and darkest of them. Benjamin January has to confront his own past when his former owner, Simon Fourchet, comes to him asking for a favour. Benjamin, naturally, wants nothing to do with him, but the temptation of five hundred dollars is hard to resist, and he enters a nightmare world on the plantation of Mon Triomphe. Not for sensitive or squeamish readers, but this is a heartbreaking story to read. Very much recommended.


Hambly moves the setting from New Orleans to a plantation outside of the city run by Benjamin January’s old master. The man hires January as a spy, to pretend to be a field hand and find out who is sabotaging things on the plantation and if there is going to be a revolt.

January, naturally, has a lot of emotional baggage with this man and the time of his life when he was a slave. He’s forced to face a lot of demons head on while solving a murder and trying, with his hands, sometime literally, tie
This is the fourth in Hambly's historical mystery series about Benjamin January, free man of color in mid-19th century New Orleans. I really liked the first two and was less enthralled by the third, but Sold Down the River absorbed me utterly from start to finish.

Hambly engages very directly with the life of slaves, as January assumes the disguise of a slave in order to investigate mysterious happenings on the plantation he belonged to until the age of seven. There have been sabotage, arson, an
I had a hard time buying into the premise of this book: that Benjamin January willingly goes "undercover" as a slave on a sugar cane plantation to find a murderer/saboteur. He does it for the freedom the money would give him and to keep innocent slaves from being killed for something they didn't do. But I had a hard time believing someone who was a slave as a child and then freed would willingly put himself in such a position, with so little motivation. To save someone he loved, yes, but, I don' ...more
Sean Cronin
Excellent history of pre Civil War life: slaves, masters, freemen and black courtesans. Hambly knows history from the macro political'economic level to the intimacies of "normative" sexual relations between slaves and owners (and slaves with each other). Her descriptions of labor in the sugarcane fields is enlightening and frightening.
The story features Benjamin January, freeman, Paris educated doctor, musician and in this book detective. He sounds too good to be true - but Hambly makes him a c
Richard Wise
As luck would have it, I picked up a copy of this book at The Laura Plantation Gift Shop. My wife and I were on an extended trip to New Orleans. We rented an apartment in an old house on Dauphine Street in the heart of the French Quarter.

Unlike books on history, though I dearly love them, the best of historical fiction has the power to transport you, to reproduce the sights, sounds and smells of a period and a place.

Hambly's novel did that for me. Suddenly the sound of the clip-clop of the carr
New Orleans and Louisiana, 1840s

Tore through this one today. Benjamin January finds an unexpected guest in his mother's house - his former owner, Simon Fourchet. To his surprise, his mother expects Ben to do the man a favor and investigate some sabotage going on at the sugar plantation. Ben wants nothing to do with him. But he knows what will happen if they don't find the culprit - all the slaves will be held responsible, they'll be sold, and the families will be split up. Ben reluctantly agrees
Story: Benjamin January, a free black man in the early 1800's (??) in New Orleans, goes undercover as a slave on a plantation owned by his former owner to uncover a murder plot against the owner.

He meets Mohammed, the griot (and blacksmith) who was on the plantation when Benjamin was a child. The murder plot is interesting but the most interesting part of it to me is slavery as a back drop. Babara Hambley does her research on slave life. I find it a bit upsetting to have slavery as part of every
Another enjoyable book in the series. The mystery may not be the most intriguing piece of writing ever, but that isn't important next to the incredibly rich setting and characters. The general powerlessness and fear that the lead character experiences as a free black man in pre-Civil War-era New Orleans (not literally in chains, but largely unprotected by the law and at a constant risk of violence, kidnapping, or worse by any one of an unknown number of racists, slavers, and other dangers) is a ...more
This mystery is embedded in a harrowing description of the lives of slaves on a sugar plantation. The sugar harvest was a brutalizing time for those entrapped as slaves. Hard to understand how one human could treat another like this. As Benjamin January says so many times in the novel with despair "it was the custom of the country."
While I've enjoyed the Ben January series this is my favorite so far.
In this, the fourth Benjamin January book, our hero takes on the role of a field slave on a sugar plantation, in an attempt to uncover the truth behind a spate of violence and intimidation. Since slavery itself rests on a base of violence and intimidation, it's no easy task. And being re-enslaved is (naturally) Ben's greatest nightmare. Lots of good stuff here. I admire Hambly more with each of her books I read.
Another good one in this series. (Worth me having to go to Central Library and inquire as to why it had been four months and I still didn't have it?) We leave New Orleans and head to the plantations. And while the slavery description was brutal and affecting, the biggest thing for me was that I had *no* idea how sugar was processed. And, OMG.

Entertaining, educational, and am excited for the next one.
This book is a gem, bringing together the free whites, the free blacks, the New Orleans creoles of every color, and the Americans who have become the interlopers purchasing property and people.

In "Sold" Ben January goes undercover on the plantation where he was born a slave, trying to find the person working to destroy the owner and his property.

Well written, well researched, scarily real but entertaining.
When I was in high school I was an avid reader of historical fiction. Now I love mystery historical fiction - and Hambly is one of the best of the best. This fourth book of her Benjamin January series provides an up close and personal perspective of the complexities of slavery, and its profoundly dehumanizing effect on everyone whose lives it touched.
Lynn Wilson
I really enjoyed the first book in this series "A Free Man of Color" but the subsequent two that I have read have felt tedious. If you truly love historical fiction, and you are interested in the complexities of Creole society in Louisiana, you might like this book. But I just kept feeling more and more miserable as the tale dragged on.
This was a very good story. I love the background for this story - New Orleans a few years after the Louisiana Purchase. I love the characters and the background story that connects the books into a series. I highly recommend this book and the entire series to the readers of both mysteries and historical fiction.
Shannon Bradley
This was one of my favorite books so far in the series. I really enjoyed the behind the scenes imagery of life from a slave's point of view and the politics between the house slaves and the field slaves. I also enjoyed the surprise ending. The who dunit wasn't who I thought did it at all!
This is probably the most emotionally affecting, and gut-wrenching, of this series so far. So even though the climax is pretty silly, like something out of a Die Hard movie, I still enjoyed it while being horrified at this glimpse into a (mostly) realistic slice of American history.
Another great installment in the Ben January series. One of the things I love most about these is the historical tidbits. I am frequently shocked and appalled by the "customs of the country" from the 1830s. The mystery was as satisfying as anticipated.
Karleene Morrow
My oh my, can this woman write!! Really excellent. I loved A Free Man of Color but thought this one was even better. The books just pour out of her, this series and many others. Amazing. And Quality, to say the least. Recommend.
I enjoyed this book as much as I have the others in the Benjamin January series. Perhaps a few from this series could be used as part of an American History course if only to add some color to an otherwise boring subject matter.
This one was haunting. The things Benjamin could do to prove his freedom were so small and fragile, it reminds one of how easy it is to lose one's freedom in general....
found this book at a garage sale and loved it! What great descriptions of the plantations and New Orleans in the early 19th century. A really excellent thriller.
Unusual plot and characters, really engaging thriller. Would definitely like to read more from this author, especially more of the Ben January books,
I enjoyed this book a lot, although my typical speed reading doesn't work with her writing style. You miss a sentence, you miss a lot.
I love the continuing development of Ben January's character. This is my favorite of the four I've read in this series.
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aka Barbara Hamilton

Ranging from fantasy to historical fiction, Barbara Hambly has a masterful way of spinning a story. Her twisty plots involve memorable characters, lavish descriptions, scads of novel words, and interesting devices. Her work spans the Star Wars universe, antebellum New Orleans, and various fantasy worlds, sometimes linked with our own.

"I always wanted to be a writer but everyone
More about Barbara Hambly...
Children of the Jedi (Star Wars) Dragonsbane (Winterlands #1) The Time of the Dark (Darwath, #1) Those Who Hunt the Night (James Asher, #1) The Armies of Daylight (Darwath, #3)

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