Benjamin January, from A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly.
Some people don’t like sci-fi or romance or female protagonists, but I just feel that there’s something for everyone in this book.
Benjamin January is an incredibly complex character. the first time you meet him he’s put in the awkward position of coming to the aid of an unknown woman at his own cost;
“January knew the man would hit him the moment he let go and knew also that he’d better not hit back.”
Back in his home town of 1833 New Orleans after the death of his beloved wife, January must re-learn the ‘customs of the country’ after sixteen years of life as a free man in Paris. Because despite being a physician and a music teacher, when you’re over six feet tall and black, everyone looks at your potential value on the slave block first before they even consider what your papers say.
But Ben’s circumstances are what makes him such an interesting character. His paler mother and half-sister inhabit the demi-monde of the free coloured, as kept mistresses of their white protectors. His full sister however, is a voodooienne, inhabiting a very different world and Ben must walk a very fine line between the two.
The book is an historic murder mystery, the first in a long series (I think there are about fourteen by now), and Ben’s unique circumstances enable him to set foot in the many half-worlds of the time in his quest to identify a murderer.
Have you met Ben before? Are you grateful for the introduction? And who would your ‘B’ character have been?