Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Effigies by Mary Anna Evans

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Effigies by Mary Anna Evans. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Effigies by Mary Anna Evans

Effigies by Mary Anna Evans
A Faye Longchamp Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-342-6 (1590583426)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-342-5 (9781590583425)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Archaeologist Faye Longchamp and her friend, Joe Wolf Mantooth, have traveled to Neshoba County, Mississippi, to help excavate a site near Nanih Waiya, the sacred mound where tradition says the Choctaw nation was born. When farmer Carroll Calhoun refuses their request to investigate an ancient Native American mound, Faye and her colleagues are disappointed, but his next action breaks their hearts: he tries to bulldoze the huge relic to the ground.

Faye and Joe rush to protect history--with their bodies, if necessary. Soon the Choctaws arrive to defend the mound and the farmer's white and black neighbors come to defend his property rights. Though a popular young sheriff is able to defuse the situation, tempers are short.

That night, Calhoun is found dead, his throat sliced with a handmade stone blade. Was he killed by an archaeologist, angered by his wanton destruction of history? Neshoba County farmers have been plowing up stone tools like the murder weapon for centuries. Did one of them take this chance to even the score with an old rival?

The sheriff is well-aware that Faye and Joe were near the spot where Calhoun's body was found and their combined knowledge of stone tools is impressive. They had motive, means, and opportunity....but so does almost everyone in Neshoba County.

Review: Mary Anna Evans continues to impress readers with the third entry in the Faye Longchamp mystery series, Effigies.

Faye, together with Joe Wolf Mantooth, are working on a project team that was hired by the state of Mississippi to excavate a region prior to putting a new road through. The local Choctaw tribe had its origins in the area, and considers much of the land sacred. When a local property owner is murdered with a Choctaw artifact, Faye gets involved with the investigation. Was it a case of property rights versus the preservation of ancient history? Or could the murder have been personally motivated? The latter case seems possible when an aging, prominent, black politician makes a speech that he was the victim of a hate crime in the area many years ago, and would like to see justice done before he dies.

Evans is masterful at weaving a historical thread through her mysteries, with Effigies being no exception. Interspersed between chapters are Choctaw stories, as told by one of the local residents. Most of these stories are related in some way to the main plot, though they don't necessarily aid the reader in solving the mystery of the property owner's death. Towards the end, Evans turned what could have been a typical "heroine-in-peril" scenario and made it something spiritual and special, not unlike the Choctaw themselves. It's a captivating moment.

If there's a weak element of Effigies, it's Faye herself. She seems to lack the passion exhibited in earlier books; it's as if this murder mystery is simply an academic exercise to her. Faye has been evolving dramatically since Artifacts (the first, and arguably, the best book of the series) and she is a more interesting character when she has something personal vested in the outcome.

Following the main text, the author adds a guide for teachers, students, and (in her words), the incurably curious, a nice touch to a well-researched and written novel.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Effigies for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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