GRAVEYARD DUST, by Barbara Hambly

Benjamin January, a free man of color in 1830's New Orleans, is once again beset by problems, this time concerning his sister Olympe, a voodooienne accused of poisoning a young man. Introduced in the novel A Free Man of Color, January's beautiful, ice-in-the-veins mother was born a field slave, freed and installed as a palacee (mistress) by a wealthy planter; the benefactor educated his son and January - now in his early 40's, widowed, and returned from Paris to his home town - is a trained surgeon but earns a very precarious living as a musician. All these novels set a grim and unsparing tone of the rough, filthy, cruel life that the non-wealthy lived in New Orleans; if you're tender-hearted and don't want to look at what it could have been like pre-Civil War for those who'd been enslaved (or were without money), skip them. But you're missing a great series of stories that bring to vivid, tragic, and compelling life the conditions that all but the most wealthy lived in. They're all 5's for me.