Review: With a new graduate degree, a new husband and a baby on the way, Faye Longchamp travels to St. Augustine with her first project as owner of the consulting firm she has formed to determine if the grounds of a historic home have any archeological significance in Strangers, the sixth mystery in this series by Mary Anna Evans.
Suzanne and Daniel Wrather, the new owners of Dunkirk Manor, now converted into a bed-and-breakfast, want to restore the backyard of the estate, possibly to add a pool or garden water feature. But the local historical commission insists that a study be made of the area to determine if it can be disturbed. Faye and her crew find evidence of an Art Deco-style pool and some buried children's toys and other items of possible historical value, but their attention is diverted when the Wrather's assistant goes missing and her boyfriend is found murdered in a nearby river. The police hire Faye to examine a cache of artifacts found at the scene that may be related to both cases … but Faye also sees a connection to a crime that may have been committed over 80 years ago on the very estate they were hired to excavate.
Strangers includes several elements that have made this series so compelling to date — the written word of someone from the past, in this case the journal of a Spanish priest, interspersed throughout; an archeological dig that results in a newly uncovered cold case murder — yet the overall effect here appears, at least at first, rather stale. Part of the problem is that Faye has lost some — or most — of her vulnerability and ambition, two qualities that were so endearing in the previous books of the series. She's achieved her goal of obtaining a Ph.D., she's running her own company, she's married to the man of her dreams, Joe Wolf Mantooth, who loves her as much as she loves him, and they're having a baby together. Faye is at the top of her game and seems to have it all … which somewhat paradoxically makes her less interesting as a character. (An inordinate amount of narrative relating the state of Faye's pregnancy doesn't help here.) The books in this series have, however, been slowly moving from being primarily mystery-based with a little romance to one centered on Faye and Joe's relationship with a puzzle on the side, so this development, while somewhat disappointing, is not entirely unexpected.
About mid-way through, however, the pace quickens and the focus returns to the mystery at hand. And it is this intricately crafted, historically and richly detailed storyline with a number of unexpected plot twists that elevates Strangers well above the average genre novel.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of Strangers for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), July 2009
ISBN-13: 9781590585917; ISBN-10: 1590585917
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), March 2012
ISBN-13: 9781590589298; ISBN-10: 1590589297
Location(s) referenced in Strangers: St. Augustine, Florida
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Strangers by Mary Anna Evans — A Faye Longchamp Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: October 2010
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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