The Nubian’s Curse

A Benjamin January Historical Mystery

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Pub Date 02 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2023

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A cursed statue . . . A haunted house . . . A seemingly supernatural death . . . The unexpected arrival of a friend from his past plunges musician, sleuth and free man of color Benjamin January into an old, unsolved case in this historical mystery set in New Orleans

"Outstanding . . . fastidious period detail, and a consistently surprising investigation" Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"[Benjamin January is] a winning character, nimbly moving through parts of history we should all know better" New York Times

December 1840. Surgeon turned piano-player Benjamin January is looking forward to a peaceful holiday with his family. But the arrival of an old friend brings unexpected news - and unexpected danger.

Persephone Jondrette has found Arithmus: a Sudanese man with extraordinary mental abilities who January last saw in France, nearly fifteen years ago, during a ghost-hunting expedition to a haunted chateau. January and his friends survived the experience . . . but Arithmus' benefactor, the British explorer Deverel Wishart, did not. He was discovered dead one morning, his face twisted in horror, and shortly afterwards Arithmus vanished, never to be seen again.

Did Deverel succumb to the chateau's ghosts - or did Arithmus murder him and run away? January is determined to uncover the truth about the tragic incident from his past, and clear his old friend's name - but even he isn't prepared for what happens next . . .

The Nubian's Curse by NYT-bestselling author Barbara Hambly is the latest instalment of the critically acclaimed historical mystery series featuring talented amateur sleuth and free man of color, Benjamin January.

A cursed statue . . . A haunted house . . . A seemingly supernatural death . . . The unexpected arrival of a friend from his past plunges musician, sleuth and free man of color Benjamin January into...

Advance Praise

“This masterly portrayal of smoldering racial tensions deserves a wide readership”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review of Death and Hard Cider

“The historical backdrop is vivid, and the writing is exquisite. One of the best in a not-to-be-missed series”
Booklist Starred Review of Death and Hard Cider

“One of Hambly’s best mysteries combines historical detail, intense local color, and ugly truths about slavery and politics”
Kirkus Reviews

“This masterly portrayal of smoldering racial tensions deserves a wide readership”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review of Death and Hard Cider

“The historical backdrop is vivid, and the writing is...

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ISBN 9781448311361
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Average rating from 19 members

Featured Reviews

Recommending series books is always difficult because in manyu cases the reader should have read the earlier entries in the series. One of the things I have admired about Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series is that you can dip in and out of it but still thoroughly enjoy the story at hand. Hambly’s writing is evocative and her plotting exceptional, always.

The story here picks up some characters from Benjamin’s past in France, reminding him of some terrible times. As usualy, he is swept up into helping someone, leading to all sorts of adventures. Hambly blends Benjamin’s personal life with the “mystery” in each story, making his adventures totally part of his every-day life.

Recommended for fans of this series, but also for readers who enjoy historical mysteries featuring smart, strong Black men and women.

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So nice to read about Benjamin January again! It's been awhile (for me) but it all came back. Great plot, as always, though sometimes hard to read for the intended) creepiness factor.

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Barbara Hambly is an amazing storytelling. This book is #20 in the Benjamin January series. I had read a story of hers years ago and took a chance on this book.
The book plunges you into New Orleans society celebrations. Benjamin January, the main character, is a musician (and sleuth and has medical knowledge). I felt immersed in the culture of New Orleans, the good and bad. An old friend from Paris requests January's assistance when she sees him at a party. Together, they seek to find persons involved in a haunted house and mysterious death from their time in France. The danger arises again.
I loved the depth of the story. I always enjoy the history. I learned a lot about New Orleans society, the slave trade, and a little bit of voodoo. The characters were engaging and multifaceted. However, I was a little lost at times by the number of characters and how they connected to the story. I will definitely read previous books from this series.

Thank you NetGalley and Severn House for an ARC copy of the book.

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I have read Barbara Hambly’s Fantasy books before (dragons) and really enjoyed her stories so I recognized her as an author.

I have not heard of this series before but boy am I glad I read this book. This is book 20 in a long going series which I fully intend to go back and read all 19 predecessors.

This is about Benjamin January is a Creole in 1850s New Orleans. He is a classically trained musician and trained in medicine.

Benjamin is enjoying his life in New Orleans when people from his past arrive in New Orleans bringing troubles from the past.

He had gone ghost hunting with them in Egypt and France. Mysterious death happens which remains unsolved.

The niece of his benefactor is part of the group that has arrived bringing with them memories Benjamin would rather forget.

There is savant character wrongfully enslaved, prince’s, plantations, voodoo and ancient Egyptian curses.

It all evolves into a complex and intriguing mystery of who killed the gross Crise who is a very bad man trying all kinds of tricks to steal artifacts and money while being horrible to women.

I really enjoyed this mystery. Thank you NetGalley for this ARC. All opinions are my own.

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I’ve been reading Barbara Hambly since the 1980s; I think it was The Dark trilogy. I stopped reading Fantasy for the most part, and was very happy to find the Benjamin January historical mystery series still going strong now after the first was published in 1997: A Free Man Of Color. The Nubian’s Curse is the 20th novel in the series, and I’ve read most but for the last few years.
Benjamin January is a young Black man in pre-Civil War New Orleans, freed by his mother’s “protector,” and goes to Paris, swearing never to return to America. He becomes a doctor and a musician and an amateur sleuth with the help of some very interesting characters, including an aunt involved in voodoo, an opium-addicted Irish fiddler, and a tobacco spitting “Kentuck” constable.
What I love about these books, and this is also true for The Nubian’s Curse, is the complicated tapestry of memory that informs the current murder mystery and layers it with the past. A death in a haunted and derelict chateau in 1820s France somehow is a part of a disappearance and a murder in the present.
The books are steeped in detail of life and culture in that era. Benjamin is a likable character filled with heart and soul for his fellow humans. If you haven’t read any of these books yet and love historical mysteries series, this is an excellent one, written by a well-seasoned author who’s survived publishing for many decades. Also, Severn House is one of my favorite publishers, and I’m never disappointed in any book of theirs I’ve read.
Thank you NetGalley for a copy of this book to read and review.

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I'm a fan of Benjaimin January and was glad to read another story featuring this story. Barbara Hambly is a great storyteller and this is an excellent story that mixes historical fiction, horror and mystery
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January historical mystery series is a favorite of mine. Given that The Nubian's Curse is the twentieth volume in the series, it must be a favorite of a good many others. The series is set in the mid 18th Century, primarily in New Orleans. January is a free man of color with a wide range of life experiences. He was born a slave, then was purchased by his mother when she became a placee (a sort of mistress/concubine) of a wealthy white man. He's a gifted musician; he's also studied medicine. He's lived in both slave-holding and free states; he's also lived in France.

The range of January's life experiences is what gives this series its power. January has lived in enough places that he understands the ways the rules of race differ by location. In the U.S., he's always at risk of being captured as a runaway slave and sold "down the river," despite being a free man. In New Orleans, he's generally a respected figure. His social opportunities are limited because of his race, but he is friends with an interesting mix of individuals, Black and white, wealthy and poor. In Paris, he had the freedom to interact with whites in ways that would have placed him at risk of violence in the U.S.

The Nubian's Curse is a two time-period novel. The mystery at its heart began in Paris with the murder of a white scientist and showman. That man's business partner, Arithmus, a Black man born in Africa who has exceptional memory and numerical skills is presumed to be guilty of the crime. When one of January's friends from Paris, a white woman, arrives in New Orleans and explains that Arithmus is in the U.S. living on a plantation to which she must travel, January winds up traveling with her and with the wealthy, recently-orphaned young woman who she is escorting to the guardian named in her father's will. Of course, January isn't "just" travelling with her. He's joined by a white friend, a fiddler, a former (and perhaps current) reprobate and acts as this man's servant.

The mystery here is complex and involves several more important threads that I haven't included in this summary. Past and present overlap.

If you enjoy historical mysteries, particularly those that examine uncomfortable periods in U.S. history, you'll be deeply satisfied with The Nubian's Curse or any other of Hambly's Benjamin January novels. Hambly handles this series with a deftness that makes it possible to begin with any volume in the series without feeling ungrounded. The Nubian's Curse is being released in January 2024 and is worth keeping an eye out for. In the meanwhile, if you come across a different Benjamin January mystery, read and enjoy.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.

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The Nubian’s Curse by Barbara Hambly
Barbara Hambly writes historical mysteries as well as science fiction. It’s an intriguing mix of gifts—and I would say that it takes a science fiction writer to convincingly portray such an alien world as antebellum New Orleans. She places her detective, the trained musician, surgeon, and free man of color Benjamin January, in a fully-realized world of family, friends, enemies, comforts and dangers, sights and sounds (and since this is Louisiana, flavors as well). The action takes Ben up to Natchez and out on the bayou, as well as to balls in the city where gossip provides clues to a string of mysterious deaths. The key to the mystery lies in past events and relationships in Paris, France, so there are flashbacks at intervals, clearly signaled to the reader with years and dates in the chapter headings. Although the Benjamin January series is sequential, I have read some of them out of order and it has not detracted from my enjoyment, so it’s ok to jump in here. This richly-textured, immersive historical mystery is highly recommended. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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It was good to see Ben again. I followed the series until it got pushed back. The mystery has been around fr years. It comes up when two people show up in New Orleans. What follows s a tension filled plot that kept me guessing. Woven in are the things that affected people of color changing how they reacted to everyday life. Very readable.

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