With an introduction by Mary Anna Evans.
Faye Longchamp has lost nearly everything except for her quick mind and a grim determination to hang onto her ancestral home, Joyeuse, a moldering plantation hidden along the Florida coast. No one knows how Faye’s great-great-grandmother Cally, a newly freed slave barely out of her teens, came to own Joyeuse in the aftermath of the Civil War. No one knows how her descendants hung onto it through Reconstruction, world wars, the Depression, and Jim Crow, but Faye has inherited the island plantation—and the family tenacity. When the property taxes rise beyond her means, she sets out to save Joyeuse by digging for artifacts on her property and the surrounding National Wildlife Refuge and selling them on the black market. A tiny bit of that dead glory would pay a year’s taxes. A big valuable chunk of the past would save her home forever. But instead of potsherds and arrowheads, she uncovers a woman’s shattered skull, a Jackie Kennedy-style earring nestled against its bony cheek. Faye is torn. If she reports the forty-year-old murder, she’ll reveal her illegal livelihood, thus risking jail and the loss of Joyeuse. She doesn’t intend to let that happen, so she probes into the dead woman’s history, unaware that the past is rushing up on her like a hurricane across deceptively calm Gulf waters…
Few corners of Florida remain unmined for crime fiction and now, happily, there's one less. The shifting little isles along the Florida Panhandle hurricane-wracked bits of land filled with plenty of human history serve as the effective backdrop for Evans's debut, a tale of greed, archeology, romance and murder. The latest in a long line of courageous and resourceful women, Faye Longchamp can trace her mixed ancestry back to a slave and a once magnificent plantation house, Joyeuse, which she now claims by heritage and squatter's rights and whose very existence is a closely guarded secret. Faye ekes out a living by illegal "pothunting" and acting as an assistant on a legitimate archeological dig, but her discovery of a human skull and the subsequent murder of two archeology students threaten her precarious existence. While Evans stretches credulity with the sheer number of unlikely elements that make up the plot, including a mysterious Indian and a 19th-century diary, the rich setting and the lively characters that aid or bedevil Faye in her quest more than compensate. Readers should welcome this strong new heroine.