“Strangers” blueprints a mansion of evil

“Strangers,” by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press. 322 pages. $24.95 Hardcover, $14.95 Trade Pbk.

“Strangers” is the sixth novel in Ms. Evans’ Faye Longchamp mystery series. But now the fortyish protagonist is Dr. Faye Longchamp-Mantooth, eight months pregnant and finally possessing her doctorate in archeology. With her husband, Joe, she has founded an archeological consulting firm. Their first significant job brings them to St. Augustine, Florida to work for Daniel and Suzanne Wrather. 

Suzanne has inherited an important historical house, Dunkirk Manor, part of which is now a bed and breakfast . The Wrathers are considering additional changes, including installing a swimming pool. Faye will advise them about excavating the rear gardens in compliance with local preservation ordinances.  Not only does this lavish estate capture the atmosphere of the decades between its establishment in 1889 and its heyday in the roaring twenties, it also woven into St. Augustine’s longer history, which began in 1565.

Before long, Faye and Joe are involved in mysteries of the distant and recent past as well as a new mystery that opens up almost upon their arrival.

As Faye’s staffers sift through the garden areas, they discover tiles that edged a buried swimming pool. Under some of those tiles are belongings of the manor’s former owners – Raymond and Allyce Dunkirk. In the attic, Faye finds interesting curios of the past, along with the journal of a Spanish priest who had been among the explorer-settlers of the 16th century.  Old weapons, tools, toys, coins, and other items accumulate to give clues about the heyday of Dunkirk Manor and the centuries-old history of St. Augustine.

Also working for the present owners is a beautiful, intelligent young woman named Glynis Smithson. This ardent preservationist and conservationist is the daughter of a major local real estate developer, and her concerns are in direct conflict with her father’s. Manipulative Alan finds a new boyfriend for Glynis, a man whose values echo his own. However, the relationship between Glynis and Lex is a disaster. When both are discovered to be missing, “Strangers” shifts into high gear.

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the Palm Beach Gardens edition and other editions of Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Mary Anna Evans

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