Weekend Reads: “Death and Hard Cider”

Death and Hard Cider (Benjamin January, #19)Death and Hard Cider by Barbara Hambly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s election time (Van Buren v. William H. Harrison), and Henry Clay has come to town to campaign. Benjamin January and his little orchestra have been engaged to play at parties for both sides, which means they see a good deal of scandal. Clay’s son, James, has set his cap for the beautiful Marie-Joyeuse Maginot who, in turn, is in love with Daniel Aubin — who is married, but has a plaçée named Zandrine. Zandrine’s mother, Catherine, was Benjamin’s first love as a boy. So, there are all kinds of entanglements.

When Marie-Joyeuse is killed, Catherine is the number one suspect — because Daniel has put her daughter aside at Mademoiselle Maginot’s request. No one cares about exonerating a woman of color except Benjamin and his friends, and their unlikely white compatriot, Sheriff Abishag Shaw. So, they set about solving the mystery.

The book is populated with historical persons and events, along with a first-rate “whodunnit.” The eventual reveal took me completely by surprise (which is hard to do). I love this series (although there have been a couple I liked a little less) and it never ceases to delight. Benjamin, his friends and family, and the people around them feel like well-rounded, real people rather than characters on a page. Highly recommended.

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