When Jean Lafitte gave up pirating and settled down in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, rumors had him burying many of his purloined treasures there. But where exactly? The pursuit of the treasure foments a slave uprising deviously undermined by an evil saloonkeeper; leads the brothers Bertrand and Guifford Avocet to cheat each other, keep slave mistresses, sell off the slaves they were paying to spy on one another, and plot fratricide; and makes Abishag Shaw of the City Guards desperate for more help to keep the peace. Overloaded by his attempts to sort through the Avocet slaying, Shaw turns to his friend, freeman of color Benjamin January. But January (Die Upon a Kiss, 2001, etc.) barely has time to help him, since he’s determined to find out who killed luckless prostitute Hesione Legros, once the pampered mistress of one of Lafitte’s underlings. While January’s sister Dominique, pregnant by her about-to-be-married white lover, and his true love Rose, now jobless since her charge Artois was murdered, egg him on—and withstand a hurricane, a plantation fire, and enemies taking fire—January comes to understand what is truth and what are lies in the Lafitte legend, and the demands friendship makes whatever one’s color.
Historian Hambly has toned down her Grand Guignol propensities and her over-the-top syntax but kept up her wily plotting and 19th-century accuracy. Along with the faithful, readers new to the series will find this installment as bracing as chicory-laced coffee.