Fear and suspense,
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This review is from: Sold down the River (Benjamin January) (Mass Market Paperback)
Benjamin January used to be a slave. Although he is now a free man he accepts a commission from his previous owner to pretend to be a slave in order to solve a mystery at the plantation. Ben is very frightened to revisit the world from which he has escaped but he is persuaded to take on the task by the knowledge that he might prevent suffering to other slaves. Although he has allies, things start to go wrong very soon after he begins his investigation and he is in real danger of having to live the slave life for real.
This is a harrowing book in places. The author has done her research and has managed to conjour up brilliantly the atmosphere of a place where people are bought and sold and have no value except for their labour. She has not dwelled on particular and unusual cruelty but tried to convey what ordinary life might have been like in this situation. Not all the slaves are "good" and not all the free people are "bad" but the system, the law and the circumstances are soul destroying to those caught up in them. Ben's fear and vulnerability are very well depicted as well as his poverty and his lack of choices because of his colour.
The story of the life of the slaves on the plantation rather overwhelms the mystery in places but this makes for a strong and multi-faceted novel which is about much more than just the discovery of the culprit. It is full of tension and a tangible sense of peril for Ben which kept me on the edge of my seat as events progressed. There is a depth and a power in this book which you don't always find in a suspense novel and it addresses head-on the evil which was the ownership of one person by another and all its consequences.
Intelligent and gripping reading.