DEAD WATER, by Barbara Hambly

8/Benjamin January stories set in the pre-Civil War American south. Underscoring the disastrous situation a free man of color can get himself into on the Mississippi, Benjamin January (6'3", very black son of a field hand) is hired to find the man who may have absconded with a New Orleans bank's gold . . . including January's irreplaceable house payment. The villain is supposed to be taking his loot on board the small paddlewheel steamer Silver Moon, bound to Natchez and points north. January recruits his white friend Hannibal Sefton to act as his owner Click below for more... 
and they enter the isolated world of a paddleboat, where coffles of miserable slaves are offered for purchase to any white man passing by. The passengers are a motley lot, ranging from very proper to not nearly proper enough. The crew is even worse, headed up by a pusilanimous captain and a bullying pilot. But there's also a cold-blooded killer, and as the ship crawls north into American-dominated territory, it becomes even more dangerous to January, his wife and their friend. This could be an uneasy read for the more tender-hearted, but the series is compelling, and Benjamin January an entrancing character. It's a 5.
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