Dr. Benjamin January, a free man of color in 1830's New Orleans, returns in this second volume of this impressive mystery series. January faces uncommon challenges, not least of which is the continual risk of being caught without his papers, kidnapped, and enslaved; Hambly does a fine job of capturing a weird place and time at the edge of America. I prefer her extraordinarily imagined vampire novels, but Hambly is a clean writer with a flair for historical detail and shows an admirable determination to work in an charmless era with an uncharismatic hero who dares not want (or hope) too much.