Tag Archives: Mary Anna Evans

Long-dead woman leaves legacy of manipulation and discord

Burials, by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press. 302 pages. Hardcover $26.95. Trade paperback $15.95.

Winner of three Florida Book Awards for earlier titles in her Faye Longchamp Mystery Series, Ms. Evans no longer lives in Florida but deserves “Florida Writer” status for her fiction mostly set in the Sunshine State. The setting is now Oklahoma (with a trace of Arkansas), but the ingredients are the ones her fans are familiar with: archaeological acumen, spellbinding mystery, horrible crimes, intrepid sleuthing, and domestic tensions.  

Hired by Chief Roy Cloud, head of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s Lighthorse Tribal Police, to assist in the reopening of a dig that was closed down twenty-nine years previously, Faye finds herself involved in a murder case. The site holds the remains of another archaeologist, Dr. Sofia Townsend, who had been exploring the site before disappearing. It soon becomes clear that she was murdered, and then buried, along with several important artifacts.

Disturbing historic sites, especially burial sites, had been a controversial issue in the Muscogee Nation, and in the community of Sylacauga, Oklahoma. Those attempting to reopen the site attracted gunfire. Is that because they knew Dr. Townsend’s remains would be discovered? Is her murderer among those trying to scare people away?

Evans

More to the point: is her murderer one of those she had employed shortly before she disappeared? That group includes Sly Mantooth, father of Faye’s husband Joe, and Mickey Callahan, father of an archeologist named Carson Callahan. Carson, who had earned his graduate degrees by doing studies of Townsend’s work, is now part of the team continuing her work – and also part of the investigation of her death.

The shooting of a law enforcement officer guarding the scene of the crime adds a degree of urgency to the investigation led by Chief Cloud, and to the work assigned to Faye.

Faye’s task is further complicated by the essential reason for coming to this tiny Oklahoma town, which is to help her husband rebuild his relationship with his father. Together, they will disperse Joe’s late mother’s ashes. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 3, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 4 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – Burials

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Faith and folly vie in mystical murder mystery

Rituals, by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press. 286 pages. Hardcover $24.95, Trade Paper $14.95.

In her eighth Faye Longchamp Mystery, Ms. Evans sets her archaeologist heroine down in a Spiritualist enclave in western New York. Her rather tedious task here is to help professionalize a town museum in fictional Rosebower. She will lend her credentials and industry to assessing the archives and artifacts that have piled up over the years. Faye’s scientific training makes her a skeptic regarding the psychic readings industry that flourishes in Rosebower, but she is curious – as is her recently adopted daughter, seventeen year old Amande, who is assisting her on this assignment. RitualsCover

The big mystery is whether or not all this Spiritualist stuff is simply artful quackery – or is it earnest mass delusion? However, the immediate mystery has to do with the death of Tilda Armistead, the community’s most prominent practitioner of channeling communication with the dead.

Soon after performing an eerie séance that Faye attended, Tilda miraculously escaped from her burning home only to expire soon after from smoke inhalation. Avery, the fire inspector assigned to investigate, feels that the evidence points to arson and probably murder. Indeed, the door to the room Tilda escaped from had been nailed shut just ahead of the conflagration. But who would murder one of the town’s most revered citizens? And with what motive?  And how in the world did Tilda get out of that room?

The cautious, deliberate, and determined fire inspector unofficially teams up with Faye, multiplying the investigative brainpower.

Ennis LeBecque, in a stumbling and suspicious fashion, cares for his great-aunt Sister Momma, a semi-invalid whose herb and root elixirs are in great demand. Ennis is learning the business and building its online presence.  However, he has something at stake that might lead him to doctor his aunt’s medications in ways harmful to her and to patrons like Tilda and Tilda’s sister, Myrna.

Tilda, after all, had been the town council leader and a key property owner controlling land on which a shady entrepreneur, Gilbert Marlowe plans to build an attractive tourism development. Ennis is looking for part of that action, as is Willow, Tilda’s son-in-law and assistant to his wife Dara, who practices the psychic arts in a showy manner that has not been respected by her mother or her Aunt Myrna.

Evans Photo

If Dara believes that she is her mother’s heir, she could have a lot to gain, as could Willow, by inheriting land needed for Marlowe’s project. If Myrna, already a significant landholder, is the heir, then her life may be in jeopardy. Is it a coincidence that her health is deteriorating with alarming speed?

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the December 18, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the Decembr 19 Bonita Springs, Naples, and Charlotte County editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Rituals

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Murder and mystery in the Missisippi Delta

Plunder, by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press. 306 pages. $24.95 hardback, $14.95 trade paper.

This latest adventure of Ms. Evans’ protagonist, archaeologist Faye Longchamp, has many centers of interest. Faye is at work in the area where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. That is, she is in Louisiana not far from New Orleans. Her client, a major environmental firm, has asked her to perform a routine archaeological survey. However, it is no longer quite so routine, as the Deepwater Horizon crisis, with crude oil approaching the Gulf coast, amplifies the urgency of the survey many times over. 

Mary Anna Evans

Faye, accompanied by her husband (Native American Joe Mantooth) and their one-year old son, is drawn into a strange situation that involves a teenager, Amande, whose grandmother and uncle are suddenly murdered. These murders occur soon after Amande’s mother, who had abandoned her to the grandmother’s care, dies of illness. Inheritance vultures are circling, but just what is it that is at stake? These are extremely poor people, though hardly salt-of-the-earth types.

What ties the murders and the jockeying for inheritance claims and the positioning for guardianship rights together?

It can’t be just the houseboat that Amande has lived on with her grandmother, or the few pieces of old coins and other relics that Amande has collected. No. There must be much more.

And there is: sunken treasure from the days when pirates roamed and sometimes ruled. Amande has an inheritance share of a small island that might be a key to finding and claiming those treasures.

Is the murderer eliminating other heirs? Is Amande in jeopardy? What can Faye and Joe do to protect this young woman whom, soon after meeting her, they greatly admire and respect – even love?

The novel’s ongoing present involves a race toward the resolution of these questions, a race accelerated by the enormous, spreading oil catastrophe that is threatening to foul the waters and the coastline. It represents a different kind of plunder and a different kind of piracy. How different, asks Mary Anna Evans, is pirate greed from petroleum greed? Who or what must die when plunderers battle to extract the riches of the New World?

The readers of Plunder will learn a great deal about the history of the Mississippi Delta region and about the unique weave of cultural strands that characterize it today. In addition, reading Ms. Evans’ series is an ongoing lesson in archaeology.

Special attractions in “Plunder” include the exquisite characterization of young Amande. Few sixteen year olds face her predicament of isolation and threat, and few show her maturity, her resourcefulness, and her determination. We can see why Faye and Joe want to help her. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the Naples Florida Weekly for March 22, 2012 and the Fort Myers edition for March 28, click here: Florida Weekly – Mary Anna Evans pdf

This review also appears in Southern Literary Review: “Plunder,” by Mary Anna Evans

See also: https://philjason.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/strangers-blueprints-a-mansion-of-evil/

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

“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

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors