In 1834 New Orleans, just prior to his death, Isaak Jumon accuses his spouse Celie of poisoning him. At least that is the conclusion of the local law enforcement officials. Besides arresting Celie, the police apprehend Benjamin January’s sister Olympe as an accomplice for selling the poison.
Benjamin, a free man of color, knows his sibling would never do such an act, but as we find out, she practices good voodoo. He also realizes that his sister has no chance of a fair trial by her peers because New Orleans is a city deeply divided along racial lines. Benjamin begins his own inquiries into the murder of Isaak even after someone tries to warn him off by sprinkling “graveyard dust” in his bed. When it comes to his sister Olympe, nothing will stand in Benjamin’s way of trying to free her.
Graveyard Dust, the third novel in Barbara Hambly’s superb historical mystery series, is an excellent who-done-it that will bring further accolades to this talented writer. Two helpful resources are included at the beginning of Graveyard Dust: a terminology of voodoo, and a genealogy of the Jumon family who figure prominently in the mystery. The storyline is extremely complex as it wanders to its conclusion. The characters are warm and represent various aspects of early nineteenth-century New Orleans. This aspect of the novel alone makes Graveyard Dust a winner: one of the top historical mysteries of the year.