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Fever Season (Benjamin January #2)

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  960 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Benjamin January made his debut in bestselling author Barbara Hambly's A Free Man of Color, a haunting mélange of history and mystery. Now he returns in another novel of greed, madness, and murder amid the dark shadows and dazzling society of old New Orleans, named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times.

The summer of 1833 has been one of brazen heat and brutal pe
Paperback, 395 pages
Published May 1999 by Bantam (first published July 1998)
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The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
245th out of 1,036 books — 2,853 voters
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth PetersThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan BradleyThe Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. KingMaisie Dobbs by Jacqueline WinspearSilent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Favorite Historical Mystery Series
141st out of 694 books — 710 voters

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Community Reviews

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Dawn (& Ron)
Dec 06, 2011 Dawn (& Ron) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: American & New Orleans history
Recommended to Dawn (& Ron) by: Rebecca Huston
Wow, my first impression upon closing this book, I was actually muttering the word over and over to myself until Ron asked me what I was doing. I just couldn't come up with any other words, my mind was still trying to filter through all of the things I had just experienced. From gut wrenching, almost stomach emptying scenes of human depravity and cruelty to the beautiful simplicity of one human taking the gigantic step of learning to trust another human. In between you have the cruelty of the di ...more
This is a very good historical mystery, set in New Orleans in the 1830's during a summer outbreak of yellow fever. When people of color begin to quietly disappear, it's uncertain at first whether they're dropping dead from the fever, which can overcome a person with shocking speed, or if an even more sinister fate has befallen them.

Hambly's writing is lush and vivid, and she brings the rather horrific setting to life. (The city was a cesspool even before people started dying all over the place.
This was the first of the Benjamin January series that I read and I was reluctant to start. So many books which deal with slavery in the south are hokey or very politically correct. This one (and others in the series) deals with it in an open-minded and informative way (and no, it doesn't at all condone it).

While race is an underlying theme in these books, it is not the implicit point of them. They are convoluted mysteries, well presented in the context of New Orleans and environs in the 1830's.
Text Addict
The second of Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January series manages to hit the big trifecta of "reasons to be very glad you're living in 21st century America": we now know what causes diseases like yellow fever and cholera and how to cure them; we've abolished chattel slavery; and we let women pursue education and careers if they want to.

And it does all this in the context of an engrossing and troubling mystery about a certain type of person disappearing that's (loosely) based on reports of an actual
It strikes me as very risky for a writer to write an historical "whodunnit" featuring an actual infamous figure from the past. This particular person is not exactly a household name, but for someone who (like me) has taken more than one Haunted History tour of New Orleans, it probably won't take long before the reader figures out why a particular name sounds so familiar. And when one of the central goals of mystery writing is to keep your readers guessing, it's not exactly a great idea to give t ...more
This novel is the second in a series about 1830s New Orleans and Benjamin January, a free man of color (title of the first novel). Benjamin is a medical doctor who only practices medicine in the summer when the fever season mysteriously kills hundreds of people. Otherwise, he teaches piano lessons or is hired to play at balls. He is a "free man of color," but he is always worried about his own welfare, since he is very tall and very black. He is always in danger of being mistaken for a slave and ...more
I've only fairly recently developed the ability to leave books unread if I'm not enjoying them, but having got 150 pages into a 400+ novel with barely any plot development, I felt pretty justified in returning this to the library without finishing it.

I was really interested in the premise/setting of the book ("free man of color" surgeon/pianist Benjamin January navigates 1830s New Orleans in the middle of a cholera epidemic), but given that it was theoretically a mystery novel, I found the lack

Benjamin January spends most of the book sleep deprived from working too many shifts at the hospital during a yellow fever epidemic. It gives the book a hazy tone, making the reader share an almost trance like state as our hero stumbles around amidst the worst conditions that nature and man can throw at a person. The ending of the mystery drags on for quite some time, and then ends on a very weird and sudden note – made all the weirder by the author’s note at the end explaining how she did not m
Aug 23, 2007 Storyjunkie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like atmosphere in their reading.
Shelves: favorite, mystery
Masterfully crafted, the events follow necessities imposed by the stratification of pre-Civil War New Orleans' society. Benjamin January ends up detective because he is a free man of color, and cannot count on the white authorities. Following disappearances, a murder that is not what it seems, and the strange behavior of one of the most powerful women in the city, January risks his life and his freedom to find answers.

Thematically, and dramatically focusing on the tenuous nature of freedom for c
Rachel Brown
Benjamin January is working at a hospital during a yellow fever epidemic. (Yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitos, and due to being endemic in Africa, many people from Africa have some level of immunity. The characters in the book are aware of the latter fact but not the former, and have no useful treatment even if they did know the cause.) Meanwhile, both free people of color and slaves are mysteriously vanishing. In more cheerful news— well, cheerful for a while— Ben meets Rose, a free woman ...more
Mary Helene
I'm wondered, while reading this book, whether mysteries might change the world more than the other books I am reading, which are profound and scholarly reflections on justice and history.
Here's a quote: (p.185 in paperback)
"Men don't need to be evil, Mademoiselle. They just have to be bad enough to say, 'There's nothing I can do.'"
I was talking to someone about a man I knew who won awards for designing the delivery system for napalm. "Was he a good man?" she asked. You tell me.
Rebecca Huston
Woweee. What a novel! Set in New Orleans in 1834, this is a complex historical thriller that is written in a tightly plotted, descriptive, way as only Barbara Hambly can dish up. We get to meet Rose Vitric for the first time, and the underlaying story shook me up to no end. It's a devilishly clever and well-written book.

For the longer review, please go here:
Hambly spins a compelling tale of Creole society in New Orleans in the early 1800's, with a mystery based on an actual case. Benjamin January is a likable and intelligent protagonist with some maddening blind spots. A good series, although I find myself bracing for something awful to happen to January. Both books I've read reveal the true horrors of slavery and the ownership of human beings.
I read this whole series over and over. They're so densely plotted that I often lose track of the thread of the story. That would usually kill a book for me (see Lempriere's Dictionary) but with these I don't even care - it's spending time in historical New Orleans with Hambly's amazing cast of characters that keeps me coming back.

One of my favorite series, in any genre.

The story is set in New Orleans during the 1830’s. Benjamin January, a colored man, is a surgeon and musician. He lived in Paris for a number of years but has returned to New Orleans where a colored person is not accepted as readily as in Paris. It is fever season and many people are stricken. January volunteers and helps care for the yellow fever victims in the Charity Hospital. During the day, he is able to work as a music teacher. A young slave woman who has escaped from a plantation asks fo
A thoroughly enjoyable book, a historical-mystery-suspense hybrid. This one was darker and stronger than the first in the series, IMO, a little bit more noir, although M. Janvier will always be too soft in the center to be a true hardboiled detective.
Amy Cousineau
Feb 08, 2015 Amy Cousineau rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: liked the first book in the series
I liked this book. Barbara Hambly evokes 18th Century New Orleans in her writing using visual images and especially in this book, the sense of smell! We learn a lot about "fever season" in a time when medical practice included bleeding, leaching, and adjusting the body's "humors." We are also witness to the barbaric practices of slavery and racism. We see this through the eyes of Benjamin January who looks like a slave but is a free man and a trained surgeon. There are two mysteries at the heart ...more
Clockstein Lockstein
Fever Season by Barbara Hambly is the second book in the Benjamin January series. Benjamin is finally becoming comfortable in his hometown of New Orleans in 1833, returning after a sixteen-year absence and recovering from the events of the previous book, A Free Man of Color. Cholera has settled into the city for the summer, leaving it largely abandoned and his work as a musician in little need, so he's working at the local hospital caring for the many sick and dying from the dread illness known ...more
historical mystery novel with some likeable central characters and very disturbing tale drawn from New Orleans history.

I enjoyed Hambly's lushly written prose in the first Benjamin January novel, A Free Man of Color, but in this the prose seemed overwritten - maybe because this time Hambly was frequently describing the fetid heat of new Orleans in summer, the gutters choked with corpses of rats and dogs, and the stench of sick rooms full of people dying of yellow fever and cholera.

as in the prev
I read this book years ago and it stuck in my mind and resurfaces every now and again. It came up today during a conversation about afro punk, victorians, and voodoo (hanging with academics...its what we do). Anyway, this book is an excellent drama that touches upon class, race, racism, voodoo, family bonds, and the hypocrisy of religious zealots. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries, historical fiction,and light horror.
I liked this even more than the first book. The end-note is particularly interesting; apparently one of the plot threads is based on a real person and series of events in historical New Orleans.

But I sort of regret reading this while in bed with the flu...
I only read this because it was free and not in the way that say library books are but rather in that it and its predecessor were handed to me in a 'here you get rid of it' manner meaning it was actually a feat of lazy to read it.

Comparing it to the first in the series, as is only natural, I have to say it is an improvement. It has a plot that drives the story (and is interesting). Sadly this plot is resolved three-quarters of the way through the book at which point the plod begins. Let make thi
This mystery seems to drag on, but I am fascinated by Benjamin January and how Hambly has him navigating through different worlds based on class, race, and language.
Alice Parrish
This is my favorite of the Ben January series so far while I have enjoyed them all immensely this one is the hardest to put down. Some of the characters are truly evil & what is even more frightening is that the fictional story is based on the real life tale of a woman who lived in New Orleans in the 1830s and was reputed to have done much what the villain in this story is discovered to have done. Hambly's ability to immerse her reader in the world of New Orleans in the 1830s is truly remark ...more
Zoe Jean
I love this author and the characters she has created. The first in the series is; A Free Man Of Color. I recommend this series to anyone who loves historical fiction...done correctly. I get so wrapped up in her fine writing, I find myself no longer attached to this century.
Ms. Hambly is also one not to ignore other scholars of the era, early 1800 New Orleans. She was gently admonished about the mistakes she made about describing Voodoo, Santeria, and other related African/Christian beliefs. I
Another great Benjamin January mystery set in mid-1800's New Orleans. I would have finished a lot quicker if my life hadn't interfered. I definitely will read more in this series.
3 and a half stars.
Feb 18, 2009 Angie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: NOLAphiles
Shelves: 2009
I give this 3&1/2 stars. I enjoyed the story overall and Hambly's description of an 1830's New Orleans was excellent. However, the story was a bit...intricate...complex, maybe. I was constantly losing track of what was happening. I'd read several pages and then realize that the story wasn't really making much sense to me. I'd reread and my brain still wouldn't make any connections. I am part dolt, so that could be why things felt slightly convoluted. :)
Benjamin January in peak form, fighting Cholera and his usual demons - but I'm starting to think "a novel of suspense" is code for "despite historical setting, expect ridiculous and unbelievable level of thriller action." I don't know if I can believe the constant melodramatic turns - this time, a perfect-yet-sinister Creole hostess sneaks in, sending the story over the top. I had a bit of trouble separating the historical from the fanciful here.
I considered giving this five stars. It's certainly 4.5 stars. The setting, characters, and historical detail of 1830's New Orleans are just as awesome as in the first book, but the plot and mystery are even better. I enjoyed this so much. Ms. Hambly does a fantastic job of conveying to the reader the feeling of frustration and powerlessness of being a man of color in this world. Stunningly well done. Screw it, I'm giving it 5 stars.
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Benjamin January (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, #1)
  • Graveyard Dust (Benjamin January, #3)
  • Sold Down the River (Benjamin January, #4)
  • Die Upon a Kiss (Benjamin January, #5)
  • Wet Grave (Benjamin January, #6)
  • Days of the Dead (Benjamin January, #7)
  • Dead Water (Benjamin January, #8)
  • Dead and Buried (Benjamin January, #9)
  • The Shirt on His Back (Benjamin January, #10)
  • Ran Away (Benjamin January, #11)
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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