Review: Archeologist Faye Longchamp and her husband Joe Mantooth, with little Michael in tow, are in New Orleans as part of an effort to document potential sites of historical importance along the Gulf coast following the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform, only to get drawn into a family drama involving uncertain ancestral rights — and possibly long-dead pirates — in Plunder, the seventh book in this series by Mary Anna Evans.
Faye and Joe have hired a houseboat to allow them easy access to the vast region. Docked nearby in the marina is another that is home to a teenager and her grandmother. They become friendly as neighbors, especially when the young girl, Amande Landreneau, expresses in interest in archeology, even proudly showing off several silver coins she had found. But tragedy soon strikes when Amande's uncle is found floating in the water, stabbed in the back, and shortly thereafter her grandmother as well. Several of Amande's other relatives show up, claiming ownership of all her property, including the houseboat and a small uninhabited island somewhere out in the delta. Faye and Joe step in to help, but are at a loss when it comes to Louisiana's arcane inheritance laws. Faye enlists the aid of her own cousin, Bobby Longchamp, who "knew who was kin to who", but it's clear someone is willing to kill to keep long-held family secrets from being revealed.
Recent books in this series have skewed more towards family drama than mystery, and Plunder continues this trend. Though two murders occur within the first 100 pages, the storyline is focused far more on 16-year-old Amande Landreneau and her extended family — most of which she doesn't even know — with little in the way of archeology or even amateur sleuthing taking place. Faye sees much of herself in Amande, who is happiest when poking around in the mud looking for artifacts. Indeed — and this may be a bit of a spoiler — Amande joins Faye and Joe as a member of their family at the end of the book. Looking forward, what with Faye being busy as the mother of a toddler, the series may shift towards featuring Amande as more of a lead character. Which wouldn't be a bad transition, as Amande is a very appealing character in her own right.
Still, it is very slightly disappointing that Faye seems to be taking on a diminished (or diminishing) role. She is such a memorable character in crime fiction that it's hard as a reader to let go. Here's but one of the many ways the author describes her; it may be an off-handed comment, but a memorable one nonetheless: "Faye was capable of pulling facts out of the air and making a decision so fast that she almost felt careless later, as if she should have agonized more over the problem and its solution." She really is quite remarkable.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided an ARC of Plunder for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), October 2010
ISBN-13: 9781590587423; ISBN-10: 1590587421
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), October 2013
ISBN-13: 9781464201677; ISBN-10: 14642016776
Location(s) referenced in Plunder: New Orleans, Louisiana
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Plunder by Mary Anna Evans — A Faye Longchamp Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: March 2012
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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