I know of Barbara Hambly for her various epic fantasy stories, so a historical murder mystery was a bit of a surprise for me.

As a historical story, it’s great. It’s obvious that Hambly spent a lot of time and love getting the feel of 1833 New Orleans. The novel does travel outside the city a bit, and since geography does have some bearing on the plot, I’d actually like a map of where everything is. But mostly, it is about society, or the various different micro-societies existing alongside each other, and the change of eras. The major problem of the book is that the cast of characters is large, including a good number of people observed and talked about, but not really an active character. Include the fact that most of the names are in unfamiliar French… and much of the middle of the book sinks under the weight of names, especially if you’re reading it alongside other things, like I did.

As a mystery…. Well, I don’t read many of those, so it’s harder to say. Certainly, I didn’t guess things ahead of time. But the realization that untangles the knot of plot threads, and sends the book hurtling towards the end is well done, as is the ending itself, though it is a bit too laden with secrets coming out.

At any rate, it is the best writing I’ve seen from Hambly (which is not a surprise, since I’ve mostly read her early books), and confirms that I really need to follow her more closely.