Poisoned soil and souls threaten an island in the Gulf of Mexico

Isolation, by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press. 288 pages. Hardcover $26.95 (other formats available).

This is not just another murder mystery. As a psychological portrait of a women who has been plunged into despair, it is deeply moving. As an exploration of how the past informs and shapes the present, it is thought-provoking. As an examination of family dynamics, it is astute and engaging. It is a perfectly titled book, in which isolation is both an outer and an inner reality.  isolationcover

However, it is very much a murder mystery, just like the others in the Faye Longchamp Mystery series that has garnered much applause. This is number nine.

Faye Longchamp-Mantooth, archaeologist extraordinaire, has miscarried. Her teenage adopted daughter, Amande, is not going to meet a baby sister upon returning home from college. Faye has withdrawn into herself so severely that her husband Joe wonders if she can pull herself out. The trauma of this loss has altered Faye’s behavior. She seems not to notice what goes on around her. She cannot relate normally to her husband and her very young son Michael. She is in isolation, and her withdrawal creates isolation for those around her.

Ms. Evans’ achievement in this novel includes allowing readers to share Faye’s unbalanced emotional state and to follow the steps by which it is eventually restored to health.

The fact that a woman is killed at the mainland marina near Faye’s Joyeuse, an estate and coastal island in the Gulf of Mexico, would not seem to enhance her chance for recovery. Especially since that woman is Liz Colton, the marina’s owner, and also a friend. That other women are injured or threatened makes matters worse.

Moral pollution and environmental contamination hold sway. Tommy Barnett, the man who services boats at the marina has been illegally dumping waste materials. Faye’s property has unusually high levels of arsenic. And Faye, digging around as archaeologists must, has accidentally triggered a leak in a large metal kerosene container. What’s going on? Who is causing what – and why?

Evans

Evans

The Longchamp-Mantooth family has been suddenly expanded by the arrival of Joe’s father, Sly, with whom Joe has had little contact for many years. Sly’s skills, background, and the guilt that he harbors make for an especially interesting character throughout the novel. Because he has served time in prison, he is a ready suspect for the bad things that are happening on Joyeuse Island.

Others have shown up in the area for unusual reasons. A man named Oscar Croft had come to visit the Museum of American Slavery, which had been a hobby of Emma Everett’s late husband, Douglass. Now Emma, one of Faye’s best friends, runs the place.

Oscar, interested in a certain corner of American history related to his own heritage, has been led to this place by his companion and history guide Delia Scarsdale. He is excited about meeting Faye, whose expertise may help uncover the answers to his questions. He is trying to discover the fate of his great great grandfather, Elias Croft, who was supposedly held against his will and possibly murdered by a woman named Cally Stanton. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 16, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 17 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – Isolation

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