Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Strangers, by Mary Anna Evans--Book Review

Poisoned Pen Press, ISBN 9781590587423, 400 pp.
Publication date 10/01/2010

This is Evans' sixth novel about archeologist Faye Longchamp and her husband Joe Wolf Mantooth. I haven't read any of the others, and didn't find it an obstacle to following and enjoying this story. Faye has turned her archeology degree into a business rather than a tenure-track teaching position, and she, Joe, and their employees, including Magda Stockard-McKenzie, Ph.D., are in St. Augustine, FL, excavating the back yard of the Art Deco-era mansion, Dunkirk Manor, whose current owners want to add a swimming pool. Dunkirk Manor is in a historically rather uninteresting section of  St. Augustine, and it'a a relatively easy assignment, perfect for the last month or so of Faye's pregnancy. An unexpected bonus is the discovery, in a storeroom, of the journal of a priest, Father Domingo, who accompanied the first Spanish expedition to the St. Augustine area.

     Or so it seems, at least until Glynis Smithson, assistant to the owners, Daniel and Suzanne Wrather, disappears. Her car is parked out back, there's some blood in her car and a lot more just outside it--and if there was any trail of blood leading away from the car, it has possibly been washed away by the automatic sprinklers. There are also a few odd items in and near the car, artifacts apparently dating to the 16th-century arrival of the Spanish.

     Faye becomes involved in the investigation into Glynis's disappearance, which becomes a murder investigation when her boyfriend turns up dead, because of the archeological connection. At the same time, the excavation at Dunkirk Manor becomes more interesting, as they uncover evidence of a previous swimming pool, as well as buried 1920s-era children's toys in what looks very like a small shrine. As Faye learns more about both her employers and the 1920s owners, she discovers an unsolved murder of a beautiful starlet, and an odd parallel between Suzanne and her great-aunt Allyce Dunkirk, in that they both lost very young children whom they continued to mourn many years later. The archeological items and the fact that her boyfriend was murdered leads to the suspicion that Glynis was murdered or kidnapped because she discovered a construction project going forward illegally after discovering an unreported archeological site.

    Faye divides her attention amongst the Dunkirk Manor dig, Father Domingo's journal, the unsolved murder, and Glynis's disappearance, and they all tangle together in unexpected ways. And when she gets too close to some of the answers, the situation turns dangerous, and she's fighting for her life against an unexpected villain.

     I found Strangers engrossing and highly readable, and I'll probably be looking for more of Evans's books about Faye.

     Note:: I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley

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