Every once in awhile, I like to read a mystery or something else adult just to know that I still can. So I picked the first in a series I had already started by Mary Anna Evans. I reviewed Book number six in her Faye Longchamp mystery series. I picked it from NetGalley as an E-book Arc because it took place in a city just south or where I grew up. I really enjoyed the book, if anybody read the review and said I wanted to read the series so, here I am, starting the series.This is the first mystery in the Faye Longchamp mystery series. I reviewed number six in the series earlier in the year and though I wasn't lost, I was interested enough in the relationships, especially Faye's husband Joe Wolf Mantooth to find out more about the series. It took awhile for my library to dig up some of the books, but this one was so great it had me wishing I was home. There were all the elements of a mystery, murder, many suspects, doubt, subplots and looming threats to our protagonist Faye, the tax collector, the sheriff for illegal digging of artifacts, and a cat 5 hurricane, not to mention the murderer.
The story is told in third person mainly from Faye's point of view, but it depends on who is in the scene. Faye is doing something illegal, that I for one had never heard of pothunting. Apparently it's digging for historical artifacts on preserved lands or parklands and making a profit on them. Faye does it out of necessity, not that this makes it any less illegal and she has a Native American named Joe that sleeps on her land who helps her from time to time. She's desperate, subsisting on peanut butter and honey though Joe usually catches fish for dinner or squirrel or rabbit for dinner. Faye lives in her family's plantation house with no electricity or running water. It's in somewhat of a state of disrepair. And she's trying to evade the tax collector so she won't have to pay taxes on it. Her potshunting is her income and she uncovers an unlikely body, that of a 40 yr old missing girl (she finds this out after some detective work). She can't go to the police without revealing her illegal activities, but she can't help trying to figure out what happened to her. She has no job to speak of except a minimum wage job as an archeological assistant and when that gets shut down due to murder, the murder of two the students who were helping, Faye's income dries up. Since the bodies were buried in the wet soil and subject to the humidity of the South, there is absolultely no evidence as to why they were killed or who killed them, only how.
The main characters in the story are very well written. Faye Longchamp is neither black nor white. She has a mix of Creek, Caucasian and African American blood mixed in her. She is also a desperate woman one foot ahead of the law and the tax collector. Its all she thinks about. She isn't the kind to actively seek out trouble or search out the killer on her own. She does however put two and two together a little to late, but I never saw it coming. Joe is a Native American with the skills of an ancient warrior. He's protective of Faye though there is no relationship between them other than friendship. Faye thinks he would score only borderline normal on an intelligence test but I don't think she really sees him for who he is. He doesn't know about computers or cars, but he can live off the land and keep her safe and he seems to be a giant standing six foot something. He is at home in the wilderness surrounding Joyeuse, Faye's plantation. But I think he's smarter than she's seen yet.
Magda, the professor at the university unnamed is smart too. She knows Faye doesn't live on the dump of a boat she claims to live on. And puts two and two together to figure out where the plantation is. She also wonders why Faye doesn't go back to school and works on that. She's pretty sure she knows what Faye does to supplement her income, but she doesn't call her on it, knowing Faye would never disturb a truly valuable historically significant place.
Then there's the Sheriff McKenzie. He's known Faye it seems and he doesn't suspect her of murder, but he wants to know more about Joe. Then Joe is arrested by his deputies for murders so long ago he knows Joe wasn't even born. He questions Joe anyway and finds out about the other body, the girl, and remembers who she is, asking Joe to lead him to the body. All of this is happening while a hurricane brews in the Gulf. When the sheriff finds the body gone and smelling of bleach he realizes the killer as removed her body and they head back in the boat in four foot choppy waters to land. But Joe has other plans and disables the boat and jumps overboard. He has to save Faye from the hurricane.
If you've never lived in Florida, this story might be just another story, but Mary Anna Evans does her homework. The story mentions funny names of places in Florida, Cow Ford being one. I'm from Jacksonville and that's what they used to call it because somewhere along the St. John's River they forded cows across it. Hence the name. I couldn't tell you how it got it's current name. But she knows her hurricanes too. No one will ever forget Katrina.
This is a start to a great mystery series. It doesn't have food or crocheting in the title. It's about archaeology, but you don't have to know anything about it to enjoy the series. Archaeology is just the means to get the main characters to their locations according to the last book I read which again was the 6th. Anyone who loves a good mystery with some history of Florida's panhandle thrown in will love this mystery. I'm looking forward to the next book.