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Die Upon a Kiss (2001)

por Barbara Hambly

Séries: Benjamin January (5)

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361854,579 (3.85)10
InA Free Man of ColorandSold Down the River, Benjamin January guided readers through the seductive maze of New Orleans' darkest quarters. Now January joins the orchestra of the city's top opera house — only to become enmeshed in a web of hate and greed more murderous than any drama onstage. In 1835, the cold February streets glitter with masked revelers in Carnival costumes. An even more brilliant display is promised at the American Theater, where impresario Lorenzo Belaggio has brought the first Italian opera to town. But it's pitch-black in the muddy alley outside the stage door when Benjamin January, coming from rehearsal with the orchestra, hears a slurred whisper, sees the flash of a knife, and is himself wounded as he rescues Belaggio from a vicious attack. The bombastic impresario first accuses two of his tenors, then suspects his rival, the manager of New Orleans' other opera company. Could competition for audiences really provoke such violent skulduggery? Or has Belaggio taken too many chances in the catfight between two sopranos, one superseded by the other as his mistress and his prima donna? But burning in January's mind and heart is a darker possibility. The opera Belaggio plans to present — a magnificent version ofOthello— strikes a shocking chord in this culture. Is the murderous tragedy of the noble Moor and his lady, the spectacle of a black man's passion for a white beauty, one that some Creole citizen — or American parvenu — would do anything to keep off the stage? Bloody threats and voodoo signs, poison and brutal murder seem to implicate many strange bedfellows. And Benjamin must discover who — in rage, retribution, or an insidious new commerce in this beautiful cutthroat city — will kill and kill ... and who willDie Upon a Kiss.… (mais)
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To my shame, I found the geopolitical strands of this novel a bit overwhelming. Austrian spies abetting anti-Spanish insurrections in South America, operating out of New Orleans. It seemed a bit far-fetched to me, and I was inclined to believe that the Italian patriots in the opera company were paranoid. Which they were, but that doesn't mean that the Austrian Empire wasn't out to get them. All this history needed another full novel just to set the scene, but Barbara Hambly has a habit of filling the novels in this series with so much plot that another author would stretch it out to two or three books apiece.

Which means that geopolitics notwithstanding, there was plenty to enjoy. Beyond the plotlines, in fact, one could delight in discovering that ballet dancers of that era did toe dancing supported by wires, that the impresario who inserted popular tunes of the day into a Mozart opera was a philistine, of course, but following accepted custom. The denouement involving a production of Orfeo ed Eurydice featuring a chorus of Africans was shattering.

And Rose and Benjamin shared their first kiss. Talk about a slow burn. ( )
  muumi | May 8, 2021 |
freed slaves in New Orleans, at the turn of the century, and the beginnings of opera. way cool. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
TOO complicated, I kept telling myself, but I liked the pomp of opera and the generous-hearted hero and his fascinating sisters. While I love the side characters of Hannibal and Shaw, EVERY scene with them involves opium for Hannibal and spitting tobacco juice for Shaw. I could have used the cues for the new characters to the series, the walk-ons, whom I could not keep straight. What did I learn? A lot about slavery, New Orleans, opera. The smells and sights are vivid - I am hungry now for dirty rice and oysters. And I learned, as I did in her last novel, that it is indeed possible to develop generosity in the face of severe oppression. ( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |

This book happened to catch my eye at the library. I don't think I knew that Ms. Hambly wrote mysteries before I found this volume. It's actually the 5th book featuring Benjaman January, a free man of color in New Orleans in the early 1800's. Like other Hambly characters, January is prone to omni-competence, which would detract if he wasn't such a beautifully developed character. Yes, he's both a competent surgeon and an outstanding musician, but all of it is part of who he is, not just skills tacked onto him. I feel I would recognize Mr. January if I passed him on the street.

Like all Barbara Hambly's books I've read, the setting is lavish in realism and detail. The plot almost, but not quite, gets lost in the rush and whirl of New Orleans during Carnivalle. The mystery was nicely done, and the characters were all lushly real. I've already requested the first book in this series from my local library.

If you're ONLY interested in the mystery aspect of a novel, skip this one. While the mystery alone is good, it only sings in the context of the setting and outstanding characters. However, if you enjoy historical fiction of any sort, if you enjoy a character-driven story, or if you're interested in what Opera was like in the early 19th century in New Orleans, read this book. ( )
1 vote hopeevey | May 20, 2018 |
I have loved the Benjamin January series up to now, but this one was so slow I had a hard time finishing it. It did pick up in the last half and I give it 3 stars for that part. Too many characters and the slow plot kept it from being as good as the previous books. ( )
  MCDyson | Mar 26, 2016 |
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"...nigger," muttered a man's voice, hoarse in the dark of the alley but very clear.
Benjamin January froze in his tracks. Would this, he wondered, be the occasion on which he'd be hauled into court and hanged - or, more informally, beaten to death on the public street - for the crime of defending himself against a white man's assault?
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"If I were on trial for murder, I'd make sure I couldn’t get the gloves on either." Hannibal bit into a beignet in a snowfall of powdered sugar.
"Anyone want to start a fund," he inquired, "to purchase bullets for M'sieu Marsan?"
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InA Free Man of ColorandSold Down the River, Benjamin January guided readers through the seductive maze of New Orleans' darkest quarters. Now January joins the orchestra of the city's top opera house — only to become enmeshed in a web of hate and greed more murderous than any drama onstage. In 1835, the cold February streets glitter with masked revelers in Carnival costumes. An even more brilliant display is promised at the American Theater, where impresario Lorenzo Belaggio has brought the first Italian opera to town. But it's pitch-black in the muddy alley outside the stage door when Benjamin January, coming from rehearsal with the orchestra, hears a slurred whisper, sees the flash of a knife, and is himself wounded as he rescues Belaggio from a vicious attack. The bombastic impresario first accuses two of his tenors, then suspects his rival, the manager of New Orleans' other opera company. Could competition for audiences really provoke such violent skulduggery? Or has Belaggio taken too many chances in the catfight between two sopranos, one superseded by the other as his mistress and his prima donna? But burning in January's mind and heart is a darker possibility. The opera Belaggio plans to present — a magnificent version ofOthello— strikes a shocking chord in this culture. Is the murderous tragedy of the noble Moor and his lady, the spectacle of a black man's passion for a white beauty, one that some Creole citizen — or American parvenu — would do anything to keep off the stage? Bloody threats and voodoo signs, poison and brutal murder seem to implicate many strange bedfellows. And Benjamin must discover who — in rage, retribution, or an insidious new commerce in this beautiful cutthroat city — will kill and kill ... and who willDie Upon a Kiss.

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