2018 - Willa Literary Award Finalist, Contemporary Fiction
2018 - Oklahoma Book Award Finalist, Fiction
2018 - Will Rogers Bronze Medallion Award Winner, Western Fiction
Top 12 Mystery Novels of 2017 by Strand Magazine
A woman waits under five feet of dirt - a woman who is by now nothing but bones stained the deep red of Oklahoma clay. A delicate silver necklace, a handful of ancient pearls, and a priceless figurine rest with her. Twenty-nine years is a long time to wait for a proper burial.
Faye Longchamp-Mantooth, who runs a small and shakily financed archaeological consulting firm with her husband, Joe, has come to Sylacauga so she and Joe can join his father, Sly Mantooth, in dispersing his mother's ashes. Fifteen years is a long time to wait for a proper ceremony.
Faye has partially financed the trip by hiring on to consult on the reopening of a site closed down 29 years ago when archaeologist Dr. Sophia Townsend disappeared - for good. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation intends to create a park if nothing sacred lies in the soil. What no one expects is the lonely red bones that emerge as the backhoe completes its work. Inevitably they prove to be those of Sophia Townsend. And examination shows Sophia was first killed by a blow to the head.
Chief Roy Cloud of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's Lighthorse Tribal Police hires Faye, who clearly can't be a suspect, to consult. Which is fine with Faye, who won't rest easy until Sophia's murder is solved. But the investigation comes uncomfortably close to home when she learns that her father-in-law knows more about the dead woman than he is willing to admit. So, it appears, does everyone in tiny Sylacauga.
Dr. Sophia Townsend had possessed a sexual magnetism as forceful as an Oklahoma tornado, and she had never hesitated to use it to manipulate everyone around her, people whose hearts she broke and whose marriages she destroyed. Was she killed by one of her lovers, or by one of their wives? Or by the woman who became enthralled with her? Or maybe Sly Mantooth? Or was something else elemental - greed, buried treasure, fame - at work?
Faye's obsession with this case tests her professional ethics and it tests her marriage. Such was the power of Sophia Townsend that, twenty-nine years after her murder, she wreaks havoc (along with the weather) once again.
Evans's enjoyable 10th Faye Longchamps mystery (after 2015's Isolation) takes the archeologist and her husband, Joe Mantooth, from Florida to Oklahoma. Faye is doing a consulting gig for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, whose members plan to build a park on tribal land. As soon as she arrives at the site, someone fires gunshots in Faye's vicinity. Digging uncovers the skeletal remains of archeologist Sophia Townsend, who was the leader of a team exploring the same site three decades earlier. Skull fractures suggest that she was hit with a blunt instrument. Faye and Joe get caught up in tribal police chief Roy Cloud's subsequent murder investigation. Why was Sophia never reported missing? And where did the grave goods found with her remains come from? When the site claims another victim, the tension mounts. Evans sensitively explores the issue of how to balance respecting cultural heritage and gaining knowledge of the past through scientific research.