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RITUALS
by Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2013
272 pages
$14.95
ISBN: 1464201692


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Since the cover of this book is emblazoned with a comment written by Tony Hillerman about one of the earlier books in the series, I expected this book to be tied to Native American culture. However, while there is a sub-plot dealing with a Eurocentric owner of a small private museum, the history in the book is centered on the development of the women's rights movement in Seneca Falls, New York. Archaeology, Faye's specialty, ends up playing a very minor role in this book.

Faye is hired to organize Samuel Langley's private museum, located in the rural New York center of Spiritualism, Rosebower. Samuel has several pieces in the museum that he believes prove that aliens and Vikings were the source of all civilization. During the course of the book, as Faye and her daughter Amande organize the many papers related to the founding of the women's rights movement in upstate New York, they must convince their client that these pieces do nothing of the sort. Since Rosebower is a town that has made its living based on Spiritualism, the museum is also of interest to a retired physicist who is in town attempting to write a book debunking the ghostly affairs of the residents.

On their first night in town, Faye and Amande are invited to dinner, followed by a séance held by one of the oldest and most respected members of the Spiritualist community, Tilda. Shortly thereafter, Tilda is killed in a house fire, and other older members of town are threatened. Suspects abound. The killer could be the developer trying to create a Disneyworld-style theme park showcasing Spiritualism. Or maybe Tilda's daughter and/or her husband, anticipating a large inheritance, might have done the deed. Perhaps it is the rather creepy young man who has been showing interest in Amande and a desire to get away from his life of caring for an elderly herbalist relative.

As Faye calls in her Native American husband, who has an imposing presence, to convince Samuel of his artifacts' true provenance, and as she works with the fire investigator to figure out who set the fire that killed Tilda, the book ramps up to a crescendo of flames and violence. The background in the book about how Spiritualist tricks are achieved helps support the events that take place during this final scene. However, the meager character development that Evans has accomplished with regard to many of the minor characters makes the motivation for the crime seem far-fetched. The book works well as an explanation of the techniques involved with magic, and even as an introduction to the history of the women's rights movement, but less well as a mystery.

This is the eighth book in the Faye Longchamp series. Though I haven't read any others, I felt that Faye was a sympathetic character, and I am interested to return to the beginning of the series to see if the archaeological perspective is more in evidence in the earlier books.

§ Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, December 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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