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Floodgates (Faye Longchamp Series #5)
     

Floodgates (Faye Longchamp Series #5)

5.0 1
by Mary Anna Evans
 

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In New Orleans, archaeologist Faye Longchamp and her team of archaeologists are horrified when a corpse surfaces that's far too new to be an archaeological find. Faye and her fiancé Joe Wolf Mantooth are drawn into the investigation by a detective who believes their professional expertise is critical to the case.  They quickly learn that trouble swirled

Overview

In New Orleans, archaeologist Faye Longchamp and her team of archaeologists are horrified when a corpse surfaces that's far too new to be an archaeological find. Faye and her fiancé Joe Wolf Mantooth are drawn into the investigation by a detective who believes their professional expertise is critical to the case.  They quickly learn that trouble swirled around the victim, Shelly Broussard, like winds around the still, quiet eye of a hurricane.  Does Shelly's heroic rescue work in the aftermath of Katrina the key to her death?  Or does the sheaf of photos in her work files hold the answer?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Evans's fifth series mystery…reveals her skill in handling the details of a crime story enhanced by historical facts and scientific discussions on the physical properties of water. Along with further insights into Faye's personal life, the reader ends up with a thoroughly good mystery.” –Library Journal on Floodgates
 
“Evans's fifth (Findings, 2008, etc.) is an exciting brew of mystery and romance with a touch of New Orleans charm.” –Kirkus on Floodgates
 
STARRED REVIEW
“Evans always incorporates detailed research that adds depth and authenticity to her mysteries, and she beautifully conjurs up the Micco County, FL, setting. This is a series that deserves more attention than it garners. Fans of archaeological mysteries by Lyn Hamilton, Sarah Andrews, and Aaron Elkins will enjoy.” –Library Journal on Findings

Publishers Weekly

At the outset of Evans's engaging if somewhat thinly plotted fourth mystery to feature archeologist Faye Longchamp (after 2008's Findings), Faye and her team are excavating a plantation site outside New Orleans, next to the battlefield where Andrew Jackson's army defeated the British in 1815. When students doing post-Katrina cleanup find the remains of what appears to be a drowning victim from the hurricane, a dumbbell resting atop the pelvis suggests foul play to Faye. The police ask Faye and her fiancé, Joe Wolf Mantooth, to assist in what becomes a murder investigation, the victim having been identified as a fellow archeologist, Shelly Broussard, who worked with rescue teams after the storm. Passages from a book about the Katrina disaster by a local author and extracts from the memoirs of a 19th-century military engineer provide insights and historical perspective. Faye's landlady, a part-time voodoo-mambo or priestess, adds spice. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
As Faye Longchamp excavates an archaeological site in New Orleans, a body is found. The police assume it is a corpse left by Hurricane Katrina, but Faye notes that the debris surrounding the dead woman is wrong; someone left her body in that flooded-out house. A police detective wanting to use their archaeological expertise in tracking down the killer draws Faye and fiancé Joe Wolf Mantooth into the investigation—an involvement that leads to some surprises and plenty of danger. VERDICT Evans's fifth series mystery (after Relic) reveals her skill in handling the details of a crime story enhanced by historical facts and scientific discussions on the physical properties of water. Along with further insights into Faye's personal life, the reader ends up with a thoroughly good mystery. Sure to attract those who enjoy Lyn Hamilton's archaeological mysteries. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 3/1/09; see also Kenneth Abel's Down in the Flood, reviewed above.—Ed.]
Kirkus Reviews
Post-Katrina New Orleans hides many tragic secrets, including one that leads to murder. Archaeologist Faye Longchamp and her little crew are excavating a plantation site at Chalmette battlefield. When park ranger Matt Guidry offers her a tour of a flood-stricken area, she's eager to go along. Adventure turns to tragedy when a body is discovered in a ruined house. Immediately noticing that the corpse could not have been washed into its present position by the flood, Faye works with Detective Jodi Bienvenu to help solve what turns out to be a murder. The victim was Shelly Broussard, an archaeologist cousin of Matt's who spent the frantic days after the flood using her map-reading skills to rescue people while searching for her parents, who were eventually found drowned in their attic. Two lists and several maps found in Shelly's pocket provide clues for Faye, her fiance Joe Wolf Mantooth, who's enthralled with the history of drainage in the city, and her assistants Nina and Dauphine. Joe provides especially valuable assistance when he and Faye rescue Nina after someone's hit her over the head and dumped her in the Mississippi. Faye can't help but suspect Nina's smarmy boyfriend Charles, who had worked with Shelly in the rescue effort. Their work leads to some success but also some danger from a killer ready to strike again. Evans's fifth (Findings, 2008, etc.) is an exciting brew of mystery and romance with a touch of New Orleans charm.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590587805
Publisher:
Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date:
10/05/2010
Series:
Faye Longchamp Series , #5
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
250
Product dimensions:
2.40(w) x 6.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Floodgates


By Mary Anna Evans

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2009 Mary Anna Evans
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59058-780-5


CHAPTER 1

Faye Longchamp was surprised at herself. She was working on a dream project, excavating a plantation site to find the subtle traces left by its slaves as they lived their lives. Perhaps today she would find a worn tool, mended many times, or a handmade toy or a chipped bowl. Those things spoke to her of life and the passage of time, and they appealed to the romantic soul that she pretended she didn't have.

So why couldn't she stop thinking about the battlefield behind her? Faye hated battlefields.

As a rule, Faye's worklife revolved around the day-to-day routine of ordinary human beings. She wanted to know how people lived in the past. She wasn't much interested in the details of how they killed each other. History teachers who forced students to memorize the dates of every last battle in every single war made Faye nuts. Not to mention the fact that she fell into the political camp that considered war to be a waste of perfectly serviceable human beings.

She understood that wars could be fought with noble motivations. For example, she agreed with most of the world that Hitler and slavery had both been blights upon humanity. But that didn't mean she wanted to spend her career digging up cannonballs that had killed a few teenaged soldiers before crashing to the ground.

"Faye." The sound of her name brought Faye back from the long-ago battle. When Nina spoke, Faye listened, because Nina only talked when she had something to say.

Nina Thibodeaux, her assistant for this job, was capable of working as single-mindedly and silently as Faye did. And that was saying something.

When there weren't any tourists around, chatting with each other and gabbing on cell phones and wandering too close to the tape cordoning off Faye's excavation, it was quiet here at this grassy park where the Battle of New Orleans was fought. In fact, it was strikingly quiet, considering its location between a busy highway and a river thick with cargo ships. On the rare occasion that either woman spoke, the sound was as out-of-place as a marching band in a graveyard ... and since the battlefield grounds butted up to a military cemetery, that image wasn't far off the mark.

Nina stood up and brushed her dirty hands on her jeans. "I'm going to take a break."

Faye was almost as startled as she would have been if Nina had sauntered away, snarling, "I'm cutting out for the rest of the day. Maybe I'll be back tomorrow. Dock my salary. See if I care."

Nina never ever took a break that Faye didn't suggest. Once, Faye had been so engrossed in her work that she'd forgotten about lunch until nearly two. Nina had never said a word.

Faye met few people whose work ethic matched hers. Most people thought her laser-like focus was strange. Maybe even a little scary. Nina could match Faye, minute by minute, in her single-minded scrutiny of every grain of sand and every dried-up twig that her odd blunt-nosed trowel brought out of the unit she was excavating.

Faye, like most archaeologists, liked a sharp point on her trowel for detail work and a razor-sharp edge for maintaining clean vertical walls. Nina, who was not one to follow the crowd, used an oversized margin trowel without a point. It looked something like a steel spatula with a cushy red handle. This meant that her co-workers started ragging her about how stupid it looked whenever boredom threatened to set in. This happened every day, along about ten-thirty.

The jokes weren't all that creative, and they always came from the same source, Faye's field tech Dauphine. Most days she warmed up with the same tired line. "Gonna flip some scrambled eggs with that thing?"

This line wasn't just tired; it was a bit geeky. "Scrambled eggs" was slang for the garbled soils in an excavation where the sides have caved in. It was well-nigh impossible to interpret soils that had been reduced to "scrambled eggs," and it was well-nigh impossible for Nina and her spatula-like tool to avoid hearing that question every damn day.

Nina didn't mind. She seemed to enjoy the camaraderie implicit in being the butt of insider jokes, so Faye figured she wasn't derelict in her supervisor's duties when she let the laughter happen.

Heck. Blunt-nosed trowels weren't even all that bizarre — Faye had a good handful of friends who used them at least some of the time — so the teasing was fairly pointless. It just gave Faye's tiny three-person team a reason to laugh together, and she couldn't see anything wrong with that.

It was obvious that Nina didn't have the slightest interest in being cool, since she somehow managed to find clothes that were even less flattering than Faye's army surplus finery. Nina was the last person Faye would expect to follow the crowd, yet the crowd seemed to like her anyway.

Faye didn't care one whit that Nina didn't have much to say, and that neither her clothes nor her trowel looked the least bit hip. She understood the woman. And she liked her, too.

Nina's quick glance over one shoulder gave Faye an inkling of why her assistant had suddenly needed to recharge her batteries. A 1960s-era American car, probably some variety of Ford, was parked by the visitor's center. Its chromium yellow paint job shone mirror-bright. It had the muscled look of a car that was supported by a ton of steel and powered by a gasoline-sucking engine with more cylinders than it strictly needed.

A man stood beside the car. Wind blew across the open battlefield through dark blond hair that was just long enough to move in the breeze. He wasn't tall and, though he wasn't ugly, he wasn't particularly handsome. Still, he had a wide grin visible from twenty paces, and he leaned against his car's solid fender with a relaxed insouciance. New Orleans was overrun with men like him — men whose appeal to women rested solely on charm and swagger and manners so courtly as to be anachronistic.

He waved to Nina, and she went pink with pleasure. Faye was tickled to see it. Even she wasn't as relentlessly serious as Nina.

"Go! And leave your stupid-looking trowel here." Faye flapped her hands as if to push Nina away from her work. "Take your time. Take a long lunch, if you want to. Who is he?"

"Charles? Oh, I dated him a while ago. I have no idea why he's back, but ... well, I don't much care."

Nina fluffed her shoulder-length hair, then she walked toward Charles a little too quickly for a woman hoping to look nonchalant. Faye had never thought of Nina as the hair-fluffing type.

Nina was the kind of person who would rank third in her class, but never first. Nothing about her called attention to itself — not her mid-brown hair, nor her freckled skin, nor her small hazel eyes squinting behind her rimless glasses. When she graduated, top employers would probably pass her over in favor of blunt-spoken students with lower grades but better self-promotion skills, and it would never even occur to Nina to ask why. Maybe a glowing letter of recommendation from Faye would make a difference when the time came. The glow that Charles brought to Nina's face might make a difference, too.

Charles greeted her by putting a hand on her waist. Then he leaned in close to whisper in her ear. Faye was too far away to really see the woman's skin tone, but body language told her that Nina went even pinker with Charles' touch.

The hand stayed right where it was until Charles had finished steering Nina toward the Ford's passenger door and opening it for her. Faye's fiancé, Joe Wolf Mantooth, had a country boy's old-fashioned manners, but this guy was smooth. Maybe a little scary-smooth, but that was Nina's business.

Dauphine, a field tech whose skills made Faye's life a world easier, pretended she hadn't noticed her seasoned colleague suddenly revert to being a girl. Faye listened to the subtle roar of the aging car's well-maintained engine as Charles steered it around the loop road and out of the park.

"Well, Dauphine," Faye said, picking up her own trowel with its properly pointed tip. "Something tells me that we're on our own for a while."

* * *

Chalmette, the site of Andrew Jackson's 1815 victory, wasn't like other battlefields. At least, Faye didn't think so. She avoided battlefield parks when at all possible, but she'd suffered through classes under history professors who took their students to every battleground within reach. The more ardent among them spent class time showing videos of their vacations to faraway scenes of war. Faye didn't have much patience for touring an open expanse that looked more or less like a pasture, just because some shooting happened there once.

Chalmette was different because she could see why it was more important than your average cow pasture. She could stand on the earthen wall that the Park Service had constructed to show tourists what a "rampart" looked like and look downriver at the wide plain where the British had massed themselves, waiting to strike. To her right flowed the unruly Mississippi, barely contained by its levee. Upriver stood the modern city of New Orleans, where it had guarded the Mississippi and its wealth for nearly three hundred years. And to her left, commercial development along St. Bernard Highway brought the 21st century right to the 19th-century battlefield's back door.

But behind her ... behind her was the ground where the out- numbered Americans stood against an invasion that could have killed their fledgling country — and that long-ago army had been sadly short on trained soldiers.

Northern volunteers had floated downriver for this fight. Storied "Kaintuck" marksmen and Choctaws had gathered here, too. Slaves had fought beside their masters. And the pirates ...

Faye smiled to think how Jean Lafitte's notorious privateers had proven themselves as artillerymen and patriotic Americans, when they might have sold Jackson's army to its enemies. They'd certainly had the opportunity when the British army offered Lafitte the Pirate a fortune to turn traitor.

Instead, he'd provided the Americans with gunpowder by the shipload, as well as the all-important flints. Flint-lock rifles could hardly be expected to fire without them.

This was fascinating stuff, but the battlefield hadn't brought her here, and it was the park employees' business to explain its significance to the tourists traipsing through. The antebellum plantation sites just behind the American line had been the lure.

Faye knew her professional attention span could be short, because she was interested in pretty much everything. If she kept frittering away her energy on romantic musings about long-ago wars, she'd never finish this job, she'd never pick a dissertation topic, and she'd never get out of school.

Still, the sense of history that pervaded this place stirred her. She'd never worked at a site where history-book-level events took place. It was hard to wrap her brain around the notion that the larger-than-life personalities of Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte had walked this very ground, but she was having a lot of fun trying.

Joe was going to love it here.

She hadn't seen her fiancé in a month, and it felt like a whole lot longer, but he was on his way. He'd arrive by sundown, six or seven hours, tops. It wasn't such a long time, really, but it was.

"Dr. Longchamp ..."

She turned as the young park ranger, Matt Guidry, approached. "It's just Faye. I'm still a year or two away from that Ph.D." And insisting that everyone call her "Doctor" when she did finally graduate would feel unbelievably stuffy. "I'm sorry, Matt. I interrupted you. Did you need me?"

His wide gray-blue eyes made her want to reach out and mother him. "Did you still want to go with me during your lunch break? To look at my neighborhood?"

She'd been so distracted by a long-ago war that she'd forgotten something she was actually looking forward to doing. Well, "looking forward" wasn't the right way to describe a visit to the scene of such destruction. But she did want to do this.

Matt's mostly Cajun family came from a storytelling culture. This gave an unmistakable flair to his stories, like the one about the wind-torn night when his parents were plucked off a suburban rooftop that barely poked through Katrina's floodwaters. Matt had described his ruined neighborhood — and the people trying to rebuild it — so vividly that Faye had wanted to see it all for herself.

"Yes, Matt. I do want to go with you. Very much."

CHAPTER 2

There were no waterlines. The gutted-out houses stretched as far as Faye could see in all directions. If there had been trees before the storm, the water or the wind had taken them. There was nothing to obscure her view of one brick shell after another, each dead home centered neatly on its rectangular plot of ground.

She wanted to get a mental picture of the kind of cataclysm that could do this, but she couldn't tell how high the floodwaters rose until she found a waterline.

"When the storm breached the Lake Borgne levees," Matt said, "The Wall of Water hit, and the whole town of Chalmette went under."

That was the way people around here said it — The Wall of Water — as if every word were capitalized. They didn't use the word Katrina often, either, preferring the simplicity of "the storm" or the outrage communicated by "The Levee Failures." More often than not, people added editorial commentary like "The Goddamn Levee Failures." Sometimes, the colorful modifiers were in French. At the very first opportunity, Faye intended to find out what those cool-sounding words meant.

"The levees in that direction didn't do a damn bit of good. The waves washed them away like they weren't there. Then they just went over the top of the next batch of levees, which is a recipe for a bad breach," he said, with a careless wave not directed toward the river.

It wasn't the Mississippi that had nearly killed Chalmette. It was the loss of the Lake Borgne levees, said to have been constructed from soil dug out of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a shipping channel made personal by its familiar name, "Mr. Go." Faye was no engineer, but she thought she'd want more than sandy dredge spoil between her and a hurricane. For whatever reason, those levees breached, and Chalmette went under.

Matt was still talking. "The Wall of Water was fifteen feet high here. 'Course, you didn't have to be anywhere close to the levee for things to get real bad, real quick. All of St. Bernard Parish was underwater."

Fifteen feet. That explained the lack of waterlines. The water had washed right over the tops of these houses. Without even a roof to perch on, people caught in the maelstrom would have simply had to ride where the water took them, hoping they weren't sucked under or crushed by floating debris.

"I know you wanna see the Lower Nine," Matt said.

Faye, who had been too overwhelmed by the scene to be thinking about much else, said, "What?"

"You know. The Lower Ninth War. It was all over the TV after the levees broke. Everybody that comes to town always wants to go there and see the houses Brad and Angelina are putting up for folks. You want to go. I'll take you."

Faye wasn't so sure she did want to go. The destruction of Chalmette seemed quite enough to take in one day, but Matt was her tour guide, so she got in the car.

* * *

The Lower Ninth Ward was a work-in-progress. There were houses that still sagged and sported blue tarps over their shingles. There were whole blocks shorn of houses that had left no trace but their bare foundations. And, here and there, a few new houses offered hope for renewal.

Some of the abandoned houses were adorned with yellow signs, each marked with a big red "X," marking them as slated for demolition. Faye looked around, puzzled. "Um, Matt. I don't see much difference between the houses that are condemned and the ones that aren't. They all look pretty bad."

"The parish condemned any building messed up by the flood that wasn't gutted out and secured. That makes it tough on people waiting for insurance money or government money, but it's gotta be done. A building just sitting open is gonna attract kids or vagrants, and that's dangerous. And a houseful of stuff that's been rotting this long is a health hazard, for true."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Floodgates by Mary Anna Evans. Copyright © 2009 Mary Anna Evans. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mary Anna Evans, award-winning author of the six Faye Longchamp mysteries, has degrees in physics and engineering, but her heart is in the past. Faye lives the exciting life of an archaeologist, and Mary Anna envies her a little.  Her latest book, Strangers, is set in St. Augustine, where the ghosts of conquistadors, Native Americans, robber barons, and flappers roam.  Her books have found an unexpected home in schools, and when she's not writing her novels, Mary Anna works with teachers to develop ways to use popular fiction to teach math and science and history to kids who are surprised to find out that those subjects are interesting.  She is a co-writing a book on math literacy to be published in 2011.

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Floodgates 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Archeologist Faye Longchamp leads a dig of a plantation adjoined to the Battle of New Orleans locale. During clean-up by the students of the damage Katrina caused to the famous battlefield and the adjacent plantation, a corpse is found. The person would have been considered an unfortunate victim of the Hurricane except for a dumbbell on top of the pelvis.----- The police ask Faye and her fiancé Joe Wolf Mantooth to help them with the homicide investigation. The victim is identified as archeologist Shelly Broussard who worked with rescue teams following Katrina. Faye and Joe find clues in a local nonfiction account of the hurricane's devastation and in a nineteenth century military engineer's journal as the pair begins to unravel a clever homicide almost buried by the storm of the century.------------ The latest Faye Longchamp archeological mystery (see FINDINGS, ARTIFACTS, and RELICS) is an engaging whodunit that ties a historical journal to a modern day murder. The story line is character driven by the lead couple and a super support cast. However, the investigation feels somewhat emaciated though in fairness it is fun to read. Fans of the series will enjoy Faye's newest escapades.------------ Harriet Klausner