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Dead Water (Hambly, Barbara) Hardcover – Aug 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books (Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553109642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553109641
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,752,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Hambly's first Star Wars novel was the New York Times bestselling Children of the Jedi. Her other novels range from high fantasies to historical mysteries to vampire tales. She holds both a master's degree in medieval history and a black belt in Shotokan karate. A multiple Nebula Award nominee, she has also been president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Six days out of seven, the ten thousand or so people in the city of New Orleans whose bodies were the property of other people were kept pretty busy. Read the first page
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David Roy on 16 Oct 2004
Format: Hardcover
In Dead Water, Barbara Hambly gives us what could be the last of the Benjamin January series of suspense novels (her web site says that a decision won't be made on further entries until next year). If that is the case, she chose a more regular novel than usual to go out on. It's not that it's a bad book, because I still loved it. However, it's a lot more straightforward and not as intricate as past January books. It's still worth checking out, though.

In Dead Water, Ben & Rose are startled and frustrated to hear that the manager of the bank where they have all of their money (obtained in a previous adventure) saved in order to make their final payment on their house has stolen it all and is heading up the Mississippi river on a steamboat. The new manager asks Ben to book passage on the same boat and attempt to figure out where the gold and bank notes are. Ben engages the help of his old friend, Hannibal, in their quest, as Hannibal is able to act the role of master to Ben's slave to avoid suspicion. Once they get on the boat, they stumble on to more intrigue than just a case of missing gold. Secret affairs, slave trading, a voodoo curse and a man who makes a living stealing slaves complicate matters. Ben has to sort it all out while still keeping his cover and not acting like an "uppity black man." It's a good thing there's a future president of the Confederacy on board, especially when the bank manager ends up dead.
This sounds like a complicated plot, so why did I say it's more straightforward than usual? Usually, the situation that Ben & Rose find themselves in is very complex. Twists and turns abound and it can get confusing for the reader at times. There were times where I wasn't quite sure what was going on. This wasn't the case in Dead Water.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Great book, delivered quickly. Barabara Hambly writes this character so well, I love this whole series. Can't wait for the next installment.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 24 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
On a steamship we will go... 16 Oct 2004
By David Roy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In Dead Water, Barbara Hambly gives us what could be the last of the Benjamin January series of suspense novels (her web site says that a decision won't be made on further entries until next year). If that is the case, she chose a more regular novel than usual to go out on. It's not that it's a bad book, because I still loved it. However, it's a lot more straightforward and not as intricate as past January books. It's still worth checking out, though.

In Dead Water, Ben & Rose are startled and frustrated to hear that the manager of the bank where they have all of their money (obtained in a previous adventure) saved in order to make their final payment on their house has stolen it all and is heading up the Mississippi river on a steamboat. The new manager asks Ben to book passage on the same boat and attempt to figure out where the gold and bank notes are. Ben engages the help of his old friend, Hannibal, in their quest, as Hannibal is able to act the role of master to Ben's slave to avoid suspicion. Once they get on the boat, they stumble on to more intrigue than just a case of missing gold. Secret affairs, slave trading, a voodoo curse and a man who makes a living stealing slaves complicate matters. Ben has to sort it all out while still keeping his cover and not acting like an "uppity black man." It's a good thing there's a future president of the Confederacy on board, especially when the bank manager ends up dead.

This sounds like a complicated plot, so why did I say it's more straightforward than usual? Usually, the situation that Ben & Rose find themselves in is very complex. Twists and turns abound and it can get confusing for the reader at times. There were times where I wasn't quite sure what was going on. This wasn't the case in Dead Water. Instead, Hambly throws a lot of simpler plots at us, hitting us with quantity instead of complexity. It doesn't work quite as well, though Hambly saves it with excellent characterization of everybody in the book. The problem becomes that all of the plots are resolved almost simultaneously, and Hambly falls once again into the annoying habit of having a sudden gun battle resolve a few of them. This has happened a bit too often in this series, and is probably the only fault.

Once again, Hambly dazzles in terms of characterization. Ben & Rose leap off the page, and Hannibal is his usual witty, sardonic and slightly opium-addled self. The dialogue between the three of them is wonderful, and the other characters are quite good too. Hambly captures their emotions perfectly. When gets left off the boat, his panic at the thought of Rose being captured by a slave trader and sold away from him is palpable, and the tension is riveting. The interaction between all of the other characters crackles as well, with animosity between the two slave traders, the romances and affairs that are all over the ship, and possibility of a voodoo priestess stowed away in the hold. This is great stuff.

It wouldn't be a Hambly review if I didn't mention the atmosphere. Hambly sets the stage like nobody I've ever known. She'll spend a couple of paragraphs just describing the setting where Ben & Rose are walking, allowing the reader to picture it vividly.

The people that colour these descriptions have nothing to do with the plot, but I'll bet you get a picture of where Ben is. As a reader, you dive into the setting, and you feel like you're on a steamship in the middle of the Mississippi. Hambly's prose is quite evocative and it makes the book even more enjoyable.

One problem for long time fans, and it's a problem with Days of the Dead, is the lack of Abishag Shaw, the New Orleans police chief. He's the best character in the entire series, and he's been gone for a while. For this reason, I'll be even sadder if this is the last book in the series. On the other hand, it is nice that Hambly doesn't try to shoehorn characters into the story where they don't belong. Some mystery novelists do that and it gets on my nerves. Hambly avoids that trap.

Dead Water suffers only in comparison to the other Ben January books. There are a bit too many coincidences for it to be among the best. However, it's still better than a lot of other books out there. If this is Ben January's last hurrah, it's certainly not a bad one to go out on.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An Emotionally Powerful Book! 31 Aug 2004
By S. Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's very difficult to pick the best Benjamin January novel, but I really did enjoy this one. The suspense kept building and building throughout the book until the final amazing chapter. In this book we really get to see what being a passenger on a steamboat in the 1830's was like. And January himself - who appears larger than life - has grown and developed into a really well-rounded and well-developed character, and he truly makes this series. It is also Ms. Hambly's skill with weaving plots, settings and characters that makes this series so exceptional. In this book January, his wife Rose and their friend Hannibal are passengers on a river boat as they are trying to track down a thief who has threatened one of the New Orleans banks. It is even more important for Ben because the bank that was robbed happened to be his own bank, and unless he and his wife and friend can find the missing money, Ben and Rose will lose everything they hold dear. What more can I say? This book is as close to a masterpiece as any you'll find in the historical thriller genre.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
marvelous historical mystery 3 Aug 2004
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In 1836 Bank of Louisiana President Hubert Granville wearily and depressingly informs his friend free man of color Benjamin January that his four thousand dollars is gone and the bankrupt firm can only make good with three hundred dollars. Hubert believes that bank manager Oliver Weems stole the specie and note reserves.

Ben learns that the crooked Oliver is leaving town on the steamboat Silver Moon. He and Rose also go on the steamboat hoping to catch Oliver with the loot. Ben acts as a valet to a white friend while Rose goes below, as required, to stay with the other free female Negroes and slaves. However, finding the stash proves difficult when someone tosses Weems into the Mississippi while the Underground Railroad works a watery route. As Ben gets involved with freeing slaves, battling with a so-called abolitionist, and a few other major sidebars, he has little time to concentrate on learning who killed weasel Weems and what happened to the money.

Few writers can provide as picturesque and complete look at life in pre Civil War New Orleans than Barbara Hambly does. Her latest tale DEAD WATER furbishes her usual full plate of historical tidbits entwined into a fabulous mystery. Besides the voodoo and the Twain like Mississippi descriptions, just the water route of the Underground Railroad will surprise readers into a slight paradigm though a river route seems so obvious. The crime elements hook the audience and Ben remains a wonderful protagonist so that combined with the enhanced setting fans receive a marvelous historical mystery.

Harriet Klausner
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Suspenseful, emotionally involving and memorable 15 Aug 2004
By C. Bigg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Benjamin January series is one of the best historical series being written today, mystery OR mainstream. Hambly's breadth of research and talent for creating atmosphere is matched by the depth and realism of her characters, resulting in a Dickensian portrait of ante-bellum New Orleans that is suspenseful, emotionally involving and utterly memorable.

"Dead Water" is in my opinion the "breakout" novel of the series, raising the stakes to include the whole institution of slavery. Extraordinarily satisfying -- highly recommended.

My only complaint is the wait of (what looks like) two years to find out what happens next.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The best Benjamin January mystery yet 10 Aug 2004
By Avid reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I got hooked on Benjamin January books when I visited New Orleans for the first time a couple years ago. New Orleans is such a fascinating, historical city, and Barbara Hambly captures that feeling of what it must have been like to live in New Orleans in the early 1800's. I've read all her Benjamin January books. "Dead Water," in my opinion, is the best yet of the series. Sometimes in her other books, I've gotten weighed down with too many characters to keep track of. The characters in "Dead Water" are excellent. The book also ends with a hint of future endeavors for Ben and Rose, and it sounds as if it will be very interesting. I am looking forward to the next book already.
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