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 Four Trowels

STRANGERS

By: Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press:  Scottsdale, AZ
October 2010 (HC)

Mary Anna Evans’s sixth Faye Longchamp novel continues her string of elegant mysteries that features one of contemporary fiction’s most appealing heroines.  The author also continues to seek out and to describe settings and locations that would whet the excavating appetite of any practicing or armchair archaeologist.

Strangers opens with Faye in possession of a newly-minted PhD in archaeology, a new husband on the person of the strong and silent Joe Wolf Mantooth, and a brand new business—archaeological consulting, or CRM (cultural resource management) as it’s known in the trade.  She is also very much with child—about a month away from giving birth to her and Joe’s first baby.  This first contract job takes Faye and her crew to excavate the backyard of an historic concrete-poured mansion (Dunkirk Manor--now a B&B) in St. Augustine, Florida—the oldest continuously populated city in North America.  Because of St. Augustine’s very strict laws governing historic preservation, the B&B owners, Daniel and Suzanne Wrather are required to have their property archaeologically surveyed before they can construct a backyard swimming pool.

While a project like this could prove to be rather mundane, it does represent Faye’s first foray into the business world as a contract archaeologist, it does pay the bills, and in a city some 400 years old, there is lots of archaeology everywhere!

Mary Anna Evans then commences to weave an almost mystical tapestry of mystery throughout her novel.  There is the fabulous discovery of a journal penned by a 16th Century Catholic priest who arrived on the shores of La Florida in 1565.  The journal is discovered in the attic of Dunkirk Manor, and tells of the brutality and tragedy that befalls its author and his native flock—members of the Timucuan tribe.  There is the early 20th Century tragedy that stalks Dunkirk Manor when the unsolved murder of a silent screen starlet seems to cast a pall over the mansion down to the very present.  And there is the very contemporary tragedy that strikes within a day of the arrival of Faye and her crew—the disappearance of Daniel and Suzanne Wrather’s lovely young assistant Glynis Smithson from the grounds of the B&B.  Blood stains in and around her automobile, and the subsequent discovery of the body of her brutally murdered fiancé indicate that Dunkirk Manor might have even more secrets hidden within its thick walls. 

The author evokes an almost dreamy atmosphere of ancient evil and sinister decadence as Faye struggles with translating Father Domingo’s journal, archaeological finds that may finally point to the murderer of the Jazz Age starlet, and the very real and present danger posed to all within the walls of Dunkirk Manor by the kidnaper of Glynis—including Joe and Faye’s unborn baby! 

Mary Anna Evan skillfully weaves these three story lines together and at the same time keeps the reader fully aware that Faye is facing these dangers and challenges all within days of giving birth! 

Four trowels for Faye Longchamp’s sixth adventure!

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*MVAC Educational Programs are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
*This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.  Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.