Concubines, slaves and first-wife blues upset free man of color Benjamin January.
During the years he fled New Orleans to escape its racism, Ben settled in Paris, where he eked out a living as a musician while studying medicine. He met, fell in love with and married Ayasha, who asked him to help out Shamira, a sick, pregnant concubine in the household of Hüseyin Pasha, a wealthy Turk. Shamira ran away, and January and Ayasha became involved in her plight, which centered on the enmity between Pasha and Sabid, a former favorite of the Sultan, now a disgraced man. When Ayasha was abducted and Shamira’s fate necessitated exchanging her infant son for her freedom, Ben came to believe Pasha honorable and trustworthy. That’s why five years on, back home in New Orleans after Ayasha’s death from cholera, Ben disputes the findings that declare that Pasha, now underwriting failing banks in Louisiana, tossed two of his concubines, Noura and Karida, from a window in his house. With an assist from his current wife Rose and his friend, ex-opium addict Hannibal, Ben steps in to prove Pasha innocent of murder. He’ll have to deal with another opium addict, a Mr. Smith whom no one but Pasha seems to have met, a sighting of Pasha’s old enemy Sabid, as well as two battling Reverends and slaves transported on the underground railway before matters are resolved.
More complicated than most January tales (The Shirt on His Back, 2011, etc.). More poignant, too, with memories of Ayasha tormenting January.