A Free Man of Color
Bantam Books, 412 pp.
A Free Man of Color, marks Hambly’s debut in the realm of mainstream fiction. Hambly has a degree in medieval history, but writes equally well in other periods. This time around she sets her story in New Orleans in the 1830s. The character referred to in the title is Benjamin January, a black physician/musician that has recently returned home from France. The story is practically straight Raymond Chandler… A beautiful woman is killed, another beauty from our hero’s past (also a suspect, of course) asks him to solve the crime, and along the way our hero becomes the prime suspect and has to clear his own name. Very Noir. Excellent characters, great setting, incredible sense of reality, and a mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. A bit preachy at times, but still worthy of my highest rating, check it out.