Review: Faye Longchamp Mantooth and her daughter Amande have traveled from their home in coastal Florida to Rosebower in western New York to catalog a local museum's artifacts and papers. The town is known as a center for spiritualism and as part of learning more about the area they agree to participate in a sťance. Even with a background firmly rooted in science, Faye is surprised at what she sees and experiences during the session. But she is even more surprised when the elderly woman who led it shows up dying on her doorstep hours later asking Faye for help, in Rituals, the eighth mystery in this series by Mary Anna Evans.
The woman, Tilda Armistead, dies in Faye's arms. Faye later learns she had just barely escaped from her burning home, but not before inhaling enough smoke to cause her death a short time later. The fire inspector finds that the door to the sťance room had been nailed shut, presumably by the person who started the fire and presumably in an effort to kill Tilda, who was believed to be inside. But why? The woman was well respected by members of the community, and the only conflict she recently had was with a wealthy developer from Pennsylvania, who wanted to build a resort adjacent to the town, a plan Tilda vehemently objected to. Faye believes it is a stretch to think the man had anything to do with the fire, but she's not so sure about Tilda's immediate family … or a young man, the nephew of an herbal specialist, who seems to have his eye on her daughter Amande.
The books in this exceptionally fine series have typically merged historical events with a fictional story, and this is one of the better examples. There is a sort of metaphysical aspect to the mystery, but that, too, is often element to the books in this series, where not everything that could or should be explained does in fact have an explanation. The number of local characters is few in number, and each is richly drawn with strong and credible ties to the plot. Also typical of the series is a running thread of some external document, in this case, a diary of sorts of a physicist, who is also in town to study — and ultimately disprove — a nightly show that purports to give audience members an insight into their departed loved ones. Faye's husband Joe is absent for much of the early going, but she devises a plan to get him to join her and his presence makes for a positive difference in both the storyline and its resolution. There is, not surprisingly and rather appropriately given the themes here, some misdirection on the part of the author, though the culprit isn't too hard to identify fairly early on. Still, the thrill here is trying to figure out, along with Faye, how all of the disparate pieces fit together in a way that satisfies all the clues provided.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided an ARC of Rituals for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), March 2012
ISBN-13: 9781590589298; ISBN-10: 1590589297
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), August 2015
ISBN-13: 9781464204029; ISBN-10: 1464204020
Location(s) referenced in Rituals: New York State
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Rituals by Mary Anna Evans — A Faye Longchamp Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: October 2013
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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