Mary Anna Evans,
(Poisoned Pen Press, 2014)

Rituals is the ninth book in the Faye Longchamp mystery series from Florida author Mary Anna Evans. She's been well-reviewed and evidently has a sizeable following out there. Plainly, her work satisfies a body of critics and an audience. So, one of two things is going on here: either Rituals is a weak entry in the series or I'm missing something.

Archeologist Faye Longchamp is hired to catalogue the possible items for a town museum in Rosebower, N.Y., a community originally settled by and still populated primarily by Spiritualists. A nonbeliever, Longchamp and her 17-year-old daughter, Amande, meet and befriend the Spitirualist medium and long-time resident Tilda Armistead. After a seance at Tilda's house, the medium is killed. Suspects include her daughter and son-in-law, who are fraudulent psychics, a professional magician who is writing an expose of Spiritualism, a weird young guy and a developer who wants to create a Spiritualist theme park and resort, which of course will destroy the entire culture of the community.

It's a promising setup. My problem with it, however, is that the promise never pays off. Longchamp's investigation is never particularly interesting, her red herrings are the size of Cadillacs, her murderer is obvious to readers long before he becomes known to the characters in the book and Evans' writing is, for my tastes, way too clunky. Speeches don't ring true and there is way too much exposition and repetition. Evans' style makes me feel I'm being written down to, that I can't be trusted to reason out a few things on my own.

Back during the great Spiritualist scare of the early 20th century, a medium was once caught cheating. When an explanation was demanded, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Spooks no come."

That's how I felt about this book: Spooks no come.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

3 May 2014

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