Monday, March 15, 2010

Artifacts by Mary Anna Evans

This was a very well plotted, well written, enjoyable mystery with strong female characters and colorful settings. Though the plot was quite complicated, Mary Anna Evans handled it so well that I almost never got confused - which isn't always the case when novels change point of view or slip back and forth between the past and the present. Evans handled the historical story of how Faye's mixed race foremothers acquired and managed to keep and pass Joyeuse planation through the generations down to Faye by means of a journal Faye founds hidden away in the plantation's cupola. I had a little trouble believing Faye didn't just sit down and read the journal all at once; I know I would have. But despite that quibble, the bits of history revealed in the journal entries gave some excellent insight into not only Faye's family history, but also the social history of Florida. The stories helped Faye understand herself as she discovered answers to many of the questions she had been asking for as long as she could remember about her foremothers' history. Evans didn't finch in the face of the realities of slavery and racial prejudice from the ante-bellum South to modern times.

Faye Longchamp lives in a run-down mansion named Joyeuse, a plantation belonging to a former slave owner who actually owned Faye's great-great-grandmother Cally. Somehow Cally got ownership of the plantation around the time of the end of the Civil War and it remained in the family ever since. At least until the property taxes got so high Faye worries she will lose Joyeuse. To save her inheritance Faye, an avid former student of archaelogy who had to quit her studies due to a lack of funds, decides she has no choice but to excavate her own property and the nearby national preserve to find items she can sell on the black market. She abhors pothunters and hates having to be one. But she can't accept the loss of Joyeuse. Her whole identity is wrapped up in the dilapidated plantation. What she finds, however, on her latest excavation is not pottery or arrow heads, but the skeleton of a girl who died a mere 40 years before. Faced with the prospect of anyone finding out about her illegal deeds and the sure loss of Joyeuse, Faye investigates on her own. On the heels of the discovery of the skeleton, Faye and her fellow student archaeologists doing a legitimate dig on an island nearby discover the bodies of two of their own. Faye is convinced the students were killed by the same person who killed the woman she found only the day before, even though the murders were separated by several decades.

I did not guess who the villain was until nearly the end of the book. I was so engrossed in the story I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it.

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