Reviewer Janet Walker: Janet is the author of Colour To Die For, first of the Fee Weston Mystery Series. Janet lives in Australia and when she is not writing about P.I. Fee Weston's fight for truth, justice and a livable cash flow, she writes articles for magazines and fund raises for Australia's wildlife carers - heroes of the bush. For more about Janet and Fee visit Janet's WEBSITE
Author: Mary Anna Evans
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Spirits, incarnations of the departed, who after leaving their earthly bodies for the celestial plane come on down every now and then to help out are given star billing in Mary Anna Evans new mystery Rituals. The eighth in a series featuring archeologist Faye Longchamp, it’s a well written, gentle mystery which would be ideal for your maiden aunt or any reader who wants a story with an interesting plot line that doesn’t feature gratuitous sex or violence.
I haven’t read the other books in the series but this didn’t matter as the writer, when necessary, gave a brief back story about the relationships and previous actions of the main characters.
Leaving her American Indian husband to care for their two-year-old son, Faye goes to work with her adopted daughter Amande in a private museum in Rosebower, New York. The museum is a maze of boxes which contain uncatalogued artifacts, letters and extraneous items. Faye, with Armande’s help, has been hired to turn the disorganized mess into a catalogued orderly exhibition space for the people of and visitors to, Rosebower.
Rosebower would have been better named Spooksville as the small rural town is filled with psychics who for a fee will conjure up the dead and engage them in conversation – talking to the dead in Rosebower is a legitimate lucrative profession.
Not entirely sure she believes in contact with the deceased, Faye and Armande are invited to dinner by elderly sisters, Tilda and Myrna Armistead. Myrna, Rosebower’s most respected psychic asks Faye and Armande if they would like to sit in on a séance. Intrigued, Faye and Armande take their place at the Ouija board. Hands joined with others around the table, the lights are extinguished and in total darkness Myrna, a crystal ball in the centre of the table, begins. Coloured lights illuminate the crystal ball and figures dance in and out of the rainbow hued globe. Myrna, her voice unreal, summons the spirits and Faye becomes uneasy; is there a presence in the room? Worried that Armande will be upset by what appears to be a visit from a resident of the afterlife, Faye is relieved when Myrna brings the séance to an abrupt halt.
Tired, Faye drives Armande to their motel. Settled in for the evening, Faye is alarmed to receive a visit from Myrna. Unable to find Tilda, who lives in the house opposite her own, Myrna has fled from her burning house to ask for help from Faye. Badly affected by smoke inhalation Myrna collapses, and after muttering a few incoherent phrases dies in Faye’s arms.
Myrna’s house, razed to the ground, was the fire an accident? Faye can’t believe anyone would want to harm such a sweet old lady but wait a minute, Rosebower is not the quaint olde world community it appears to be – there is an issue which has caused conflict among the town’s residents. A developer wants to cash in on Rosebower’s reputation as the go to place if you want a word with a dearly departed or would like to know if fame and fortune will ever knock on your door. Approval from the town council is needed before the developer’s plan to build a psychic convention centre with accommodation and a golf course can proceed.
Myrna, a council member, opposed the development fearing it would destroy community values and as she also owned land right next to the development site maybe her house was torched to force her to sell her land and agree to the development. Faye figures it wouldn’t be the first time someone who opposes a development is literally bulldozed – murder makes a good bulldozer.
On reflection, Faye concludes, the developer isn’t the only one on her suspect list. There’s Dara, Myrna’s estranged daughter, who with her weird husband, Willow, stages a nightly smoke and mirrors show and a mysterious writer who is putting together a book that will expose Rosebower psychics as liars and charlatans. Another candidate for Faye’s list is the creepy nephew of a local herbalist, he’s taken a shine to Armande and wherever she goes, he goes too.
About the best you could say for any of Rosebower’s residents is that they are unstable, nuts would be closer – if you spend most of your time talking to dead people reality is bound to be a problem.
Mary Anna Evans has created whimsical, crazy characters in Rituals who wander in and out of an intriguing plot – good story, good read.