Review: Archaeology graduate student Faye Longchamp has her first professional opportunity to manage other archaeologists while excavating an early 19th century plantation and battlefield outside New Orleans in Floodgates, the fifth mystery in this outstanding series by Mary Anna Evans.
But it isn't what's discovered on the battlefield that shocks the team, but the body found in a nearby house that suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina. It's clear almost from the moment she is found that the dead woman didn't die as a result of the hurricane but was placed there at some point later. Faye and her fiancÚ Joe Wolf Mantooth are hired by the local police to assist in the investigation, which becomes even more pertinent when it's learned the woman, Shelly Brousssard, was an archaeologist herself. Faye's naturally inquisitive mind, and the questions she asks, soon make her a target as well. What secrets did someone try to hide by burying a woman amid the rubble of a hurricane?
As is typical of the books in this series, Floodgates is equal parts character study, murder mystery, and history lesson, all of which are exceptionally well presented here. Faye's character continues to develop as she balances personal and professional issues. Joe, for example, is pressing her to set a date for their wedding (she's approaching 40 and he wants to start a family as soon as possible). But she also wants to finish her graduate program and detours such as this assignment, which she readily admits she accepted more for the money than for the line item on her resume, aren't helping her achieve that goal. And though she enjoys her work, she's drawn to murder investigations when they intersect her path. The police detective who hires Faye and Joe, Jodi Bienvenu, has this wonderful observation about Faye: "This was a woman whose intuition was so engrained into her being that she didn't even know it was there. This was also a woman of an uncommonly brilliant mind, and Jodi knew that she, by comparison, was simply smart."
The author cleverly incorporates centuries-old history with years-old history in the mystery plot by outlining how the levees that protect New Orleans were originally designed and constructed and how they ultimately failed in the aftermath of Katrina. In a somewhat refreshing manner, she focuses more on what went right than what went wrong, what people did during the crisis as opposed to what people did not. That it was a catastrophe is never disputed nor is the fact that there were many who took advantage of the situation, but there were also a lot of unsung heroes who get to play a role in the book here.
Finally, another comment by Jodi on Faye that seems perfectly apt for not only this book, but the series as a whole: "That's what I like about you, Faye. You never stop being an archaeologist. You never stop digging. And you never fail to look at facts, even when you don't like them much."
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of Floodgates for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), July 2008
ISBN-13: 9781590584835; ISBN-10: 159058483X
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), October 2010
ISBN-13: 9781590587423; ISBN-10: 1590587421
Location(s) referenced in Floodgates: New Orleans, Louisiana
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Floodgates by Mary Anna Evans — A Faye Longchamp Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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