Nineteenth-century New Orleans is a blazing hotbed of scorching politics and personal vendettas. And it's into this fire that Benjamin January falls when he is hired to follow Oliver Weems, a bank official who has absconded with $100,000 in gold and securities. But it's more than just a job for January. The missing money is vital to the survival of the school for freed slaves that he and his wife Rose have founded.
Following the suspected embezzler--and the money--onto the steamboat Silver Moon, January, Rose, and their friend Hannibal Sefton are sworn to secrecy about the crime until they can find the trunks containing the stolen loot. And then the unexpected happens: Weems is found murdered and suddenly the job of finding the pirated stash grows not only more difficult--but more deadly. There is no shortage of suspects--from the sinister slave-dealer to the bullying steamship pilot to the suspiciously innocent "lady" with connections to every river pirate in the riotous port of Natchez-Under-the-Hill--who all seem to have something to hide.
Now, with time running out, January seeks clues wherever he can find them--and allies among whoever can help. Working in tandem with a young planter named Jefferson Davies, he must uncover the dark web of corruption, betrayal, and greed that has already cost one man his life...and, if he can't catch a brutal, remorseless killer, will soon cost January and his friends theirs.
Six days out of seven, the ten thousand or so people in the city of New
Orleans whose bodies were the property of other people were kept pretty busy.
Having no legal right to choose what they'd rather be doing, they tended to get
the dirty jobs, like mucking out stables, cleaning the always-horrifying
three-foot gutters that rimmed the downtown streets, cooking everybody's food in
sweltering kitchens, and washing everybody's clothing, and getting damn little
thanks for any of it--they were better off doing white people's chores than
living in heathen villages in Africa like their ancestors (said the white
Sunday afternoons, the slaves got together in what was officially called Circus Square--unofficially, Congo Square--next to the turning basin where the canal-boats maneuvered, and close by the old St. Louis Cemetery. Those who had garden plots sold their surplus produce: tomatoes and corn, this time of year, and peaches whose scent turned...
If you liked Dead Water, try these:
A psychological thriller of razor-sharp intensity: mysterious, erotic, and deeply readable.
Written in the 1850's by a runaway slave (and recently discovered and edited by Professor Gates), this fictionalized biography offers a unique and unforgettable reading experience and is the only known novel by a female African American slave, and quite possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere.
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