Mary Anna Evans continues to impress readers with the third entry in the Faye Longchamp mystery series, Effigies. Archaeologist Faye, together with Joe Wolf Mantooth, is working on a project team that was hired by the state of Mississippi to excavate a region prior to putting a new road through.
The local Choctaw tribe had its origins in the area, and considers much of the land sacred. When a local property owner is murdered with a Choctaw artifact, Faye gets involved with the investigation. Was it a case of property rights versus the preservation of ancient history? Or could the murder have been personally motivated? The latter case seems possible when an aging, prominent, black politician makes a speech revealing that he was the victim of a hate crime in the area many years ago, and would like to see justice done before he dies.
Evans is masterful at weaving a historical thread through her mysteries, with Effigies being no exception. Interspersed between chapters are Choctaw stories, as told by one of the local residents. Most are related in some way to the main plot, though they don't necessarily aid the reader in solving the mystery of the property owner's death. Towards the end, Evans turns what could have been a typical "heroine-in-peril" scenario and makes it something spiritual and special, not unlike the Choctaw themselves. It's a captivating moment.
If there's a weak element of Effigies, it's Faye herself. She seems to lack the passion exhibited in earlier books; it's as if this murder mystery is simply an academic exercise to her. Faye has been evolving dramatically since Artifacts (the first, and arguably, the best book of the series) and she is a more interesting character when she has something personal vested in the outcome.
Following the main text, the author adds a guide for teachers, students, and (in her words), the incurably curious, a nice touch to a well-researched and written novel.