The Shirt on His Back
In this newest installment in the Benjamin January mystery series, Ben sets off from New Orleans with friends Hannibal Sefton and Lieutenant Abishag Shaw in search of the man who killed Shaw’s youngest brother at Fort Ivy, a fur trading station “six weeks beyond the frontier.” Ben is reluctant to leave his pregnant wife, Rose, during fever season, but he can do with both a little adventure and a little extra money in the wake of 1837’s bank failings. On the trail of the killer, the three men join a pack-train to a fur-trading rendezvous along the Green River. But the mystery only deepens when another body is discovered: an elderly man, naked apart from a pair of black kid gloves. Between smoothing over relations between the rough-and-ready trappers and the local Omaha tribe and rubbing elbows with such notables as Kit Carson and Jim Bridger, Ben and friends unravel a much bigger and more sinister murder plot. Shaw must decide if personal revenge is worth endangering the rest of the rendezvous.
As much as I enjoy the Benjamin January series, I found The Shirt on His Back difficult to get into at first. Not being in New Orleans with the cast of supporting characters I’ve grown to know and love was disconcerting at first. The new characters populating the Green River rendezvous are colorful, but at times I felt they almost overshadowed Ben and friends. But Hambly’s research is solid, the dialogue lively, and the mystery intriguing. Once the clues started coming in and Ben was fully engaged on the case, the pace picked up and it rounded into another satisfying mystery from Hambly.