New Orleans, 1834. Benjamin January is a free man of color and a Paris-trained surgeon who must support himself as a musician. His sister Olympe, a voodooienne, and another woman, Célie, are accused of murdering Célie’s husband, and Ben must save them from hanging. As a professional musician and a colored man, Ben moves between the high society of the old French inhabitants and the new American merchants, the poor white areas of town, the many slaves, and the small free black middle class. Hambly adeptly explores slavery, the uneasy crossover between French and American society, voodoo, the nature of grief, and unhealthy mother–son relationships.