A former slave must return to Haiti to uncover a dark secret.
Paris-trained physician Benjamin January is now a free man of color working as a musician in 1838 New Orleans to support his wife and young son. The arrival of wife Rose’s white half brother, Jeoff Vitrac, should be a joyous occasion, but the visit brings nothing but trouble. Descendants of an aristocratic French family, the de Gericaults, Rose, Jeoff, and Aramis have heard tales of a family treasure hidden at the former family estate in Haiti. Jeoff asks Ben to help find the treasure, but Ben refuses, knowing he’d probably face a death sentence if he returned to the Black Republic of Haiti, where the slaves rose up against their oppressors, killing almost all the white plantation owners before turning to fight among themselves for control. Soon after unknown people start watching their house, Jeoff is murdered and Rose stabbed in the street. They leave the baby with Ben’s sister and flee to Aramis’ Grand Isle plantation, where the attacks continue. As much as he abhors the idea, Ben realizes that they’ll never escape persecution until they find out whether the treasure still exists. Ben’s friend the white musician Hannibal helps them by pretending Rose is his mistress and Ben his valet as they embark on a trip to Cuba in search of more clues. When Rose is kidnapped, Hannibal and Ben have no choice but to follow her to Haiti, a place where death waits around every corner.
Hambly’s long-running series (Good Man Friday, 2014, etc.) pulls no punches in describing the brutality of the period, when slaves and women, both possessions under the law, had little recourse for ill-treatment. The mystery is the least of this adventurous tale.