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Sold Down the River (Benjamin January #4)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  952 Ratings  ·  47 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
ebook, 432 pages
Published January 26th 2011 by Bantam (first published 2000)
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Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hambly-barbara
Another excellent entry in Hambly's Benjamin January series. January, posing as Hannibal's slave, works and lives with slaves on a plantation during the sugar cane harvest to investigate vandalism, murder and attempted murder. Hambly's extensive research and richly descriptive prose continue to bring Louisiana of the 1830s to life.
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
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, historical
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
Jamie Collins
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.

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
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery

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
Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010booksread
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
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The tension in Sold Down the River is so effective that I stalled out about chapter 5, I was so worried for Ben. Once I started up again, I couldn't put it down. I even read through a migraine, which is high praise.

Despite the bleak realism of slave life, there's hope and fellowship, and the characters (view spoiler)

I also love that the first few chapter can be summed up as:
Ben's mother: Ben, do the thing.
Ben: NO. >:(
Ben: My mother
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.
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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 15 books)
  • A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, #1)
  • Fever Season (Benjamin January, #2)
  • Graveyard Dust (Benjamin January, #3)
  • 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)
“As Cinderella would probably tell you, even a prince who only recognizes your footwear is preferable to a lifetime of cleaning grates.” 12 likes
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