Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

title: Catacombs
Series: Faye Longchamp #12
Author: Mary Anna Evans
Rating: 2
What secrets lie e2ep beneath the surface? 
A deafening explosion rocks a historic Oklahoma City hotel, sending archaeologist Faye Longchamp-Mantooth crashing to the marble floor of the lobby. She's unhurt but shaken—after all, any time something blows up in Oklahoma City, the first word on everyone's lips is the same: bomb.
Faye is in town for a conference celebrating indigenous arts, but is soon distracted by the aftermath of the explosion, which cracks open the old hotel's floor to reveal subterranean chambers that had housed Chinese immigrants a century before. Faye is fascinated by the tunnels, which are a time capsule back to the early 20th century—but when the bodies of three children are discovered deep beneath the city, her sense of discovery turns to one of dread...

My thoughts
Would I recommend it? no
Will I read more of this series? no
Will I read more by this author? no
it took me a while to get into the story , there was times I just wanted to put the book, but I went head and finished it even though it took me awhile to get into the story, while I did like the idea behind it , it just didn't keep me pulled into the story and the characters I just didn't feel like reading about at all with that said I want to thank NetGalley for letting me read it and review it
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I liked the main characters, the exploration of social issues, the plot, the atmosphere. I just wish I have read the previous books.
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By Mary Anna Evans

Reviewed by Claire Hamner Matturro
(submitted to Southern Literary Review, Sept. 2, 2019; will post link when review appears)

Below the surface in Oklahoma City, a vast system of catacombs exists where a community of Chinese people once lived underground in the early twentieth century.

These catacombs are not fiction, though the book Catacombs (Poisoned Pen August 13, 2019) is. Mary Anna Evans explains in her “Notes for the Incurably Curious” in her most recent novel, Catacombs that: “The parts of this book’s historical backstory that are the most difficult to believe are true.” Not only did these Chinese live there, but the health department inspected the catacombs in 1921 and reported that inspectors found “the 200 or more inhabitants of the submerged quarter in good health and surroundings and as sanitary as all get out.” Later, in 1969, during construction, part of the underground system was explored and photographed.

From this fascinating truth, Mary Anna Evans spins a complex, compelling fictional story that weaves the past and the present together into a taut mystery. Catacombs is the twelfth entry in a popular and award-winning series, featuring archaeologist Faye Longchamp-Mantooth and her husband Joe Mantooth. In this outing, they are joined by Cully Mantooth, a famous though aging actor and distant cousin. Cully plays a pivotal role in the developing story and guards a painful secret from his youthful days in Oklahoma. 

Faye and Joe, normally Florida residents, are in Oklahoma City when the story starts for a conference celebrating indigenous arts, where Joe and Cully are featured presenters. Cully, who is returning home after decades away, also brings Faye a hand-made flute and promises to teach her how to play. Joe had arranged for the gift of the flute and lessons, and Faye quips that Joe had therefore effectively won at gift-giving for the rest of their natural lives.

Cully intrigues Faye when they first meet in the lobby of a historic hotel in Oklahoma City. After all, he’s famous for his handsome face, his movies, and his musical talents. While Cully holds her attention, the gift of the flute enchants her. Cully still makes his flutes exactly as his Muscogee Creek father had taught him. 

While Faye and Cully talk, unknown to them a bomber goes through a hidden door in the hotel and enters the catacombs below. He carries a homemade bomb in his backpack, but after surveying a room in the below-ground chamber, he returns to the surface and the hotel lobby.

Faye is so enchanted by the flute that when the bomb does go off, she clutches the flute protectively as she smashes into the marble floor. Though she and Cully are bruised and stunned, they are not seriously injured in the blast. The bomber is killed, however, though miraculously no one else is. 

In short order, the FBI arrives and Faye, who has consulted for the agency before, is hired as an archaeologist consultant due to the role of the catacombs in the bombing. Before she’s even partially recovered from being smashed into a marble floor, she is whisked away by the FBI through sewer tunnels to view the room in the catacombs where the bomber went moments before the bomb in his backpack exploded. In that room, three bodies of small children are wrapped and laid to rest. Around the room, colorful paintings, ripe with symbols and displaying faces of women and one man, fill the walls.

From this beginning, Faye, Joe, and the FBI combine their skills in a suspenseful, well-paced race to discover the truth behind the bombing and the bodies of the children. Along the way, Cully confronts the secrets of his own past and Faye is endangered by a white-supremacist protest gathering. An expert on the catacombs disappears, raising fears of her death or kidnapping. Faye struggles with the critical question of whether she can trust Cully, even as Cully makes trusting him harder and harder. The climax is exactly the kind of edge-of-your-seat dramatic confrontation with a unique twist that Evans does so well in her Faye Longchamp series. 

Evans is a bold, talented writer, and takes readers into the head of the bomber even as his bomb activates, killing him—which was not his plan at all. Evans describes the last seconds of the bomber’s life in a gritty, philosophical fashion, all the while avoiding graphic gore. “His hatred winked out of existence when he did. He simply was, and then he was not, and the world kept turning without him.”

Even bolder, Evans takes the readers into the mind of the villain in skillfully controlled first person interludes in the novel. This villain, who remains unidentified until revealed near the climax, knows intimately about the catacombs and has set up the bomber for personal, non-political reasons.  With motives only gradually revealed, this killer has moments where readers will no doubt sympathize with this person—such is Evans’ talent in getting inside the person’s head in a sensitive, yet realistic way. Despite all that is revealed about the villain, the identity will still surprise most readers as Evans creates myriad false leads as she constructs the story. 

Through it all, the catacombs themselves become a kind of character in the book. Certainly these tunnels add a near spectral quality to the novel as stories of those who lived there infuse the novel with a historical richness. The catacombs are also used effectively to add suspense to the plot. Faye notes as she follows Cully deeper into the cave-like structures that “in the darkness, she felt like she was stepping out into nothing.” Evans evokes the feel of the catacombs beautifully with such passages as “Motes of dust, kicked up by Faye and Cully on their slow passage along the side walls of the long room, danced in the flashlight beam.”

As with each of the prior books in the series, Faye and Joe are the heart and soul of the story. For those who have not followed this series, Faye Longchamp-Mantooth is an archaeologist based on fictional Joyeuse Island in the Florida panhandle. She’s petite and mixed-race. Her family history and genealogy could fuel a mini-series. Over a decade-plus in the series, she’s grown from being desperately poor to earning a PhD and owning a business. Along the way, she married Joe Wolfe Mantooth. They’re now parents to an adopted teenage daughter and their young biological son.

As with the prior books in the series, Catacombs shines with rich details, well-paced action, compelling characters, and a complex, dynamic plot. Passages read with the sensitivity of a poet’s writing, yet the suspense is never lost. In many ways, it is an ode to Evans’ adopted new locale as through it all Oklahoma City reigns as a fascinating, historic city. 

Evans earned her M.F.A. in creative writing and her M.S. in chemical engineering. She is a licensed professional engineer. A former resident of Florida, she is an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, where she teaches fiction and nonfiction writing. Burials, her 2017 entry in the series, appeared on “Best of 2017” lists for both The Strand and True West. The Faye Longchamp books have received several awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award, the Mississippi Author Award, and three Florida Book Awards bronze medals.
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An archaeological murder mystery

Faye Longchamp-Mantooth is a respected archaeologist visiting Oklahoma City for a conference celebrating indigenous arts when an explosion rocks the hotel lobby hosting the delegates. This event causes everybody to remember the dark days following the original Oklahoma City bombing, but as Faye soon discovers, the truth about the explosion is even more disturbing.

Buried deep beneath the city, there are ancient catacombs that housed the Chinese labour force that built the city at the turn of the century. This vast network of tunnels and secret entrances served as a safe haven for the Chinese at a time when their lives were made very difficult above ground. Poverty, exploitation and racism were the order of the day, and they found refuge under the city. This account of actual events was really fascinating to me. Anecdotal and photographic evidence still exists to this day. The explosion uncovers a staircase leading down into the catacombs and several chambers and in one of these the investigating team discovers 3 small bodies wrapped in shrouds. This sets the scene for the story as Faye is tasked with helping the FBI make sense of the ghastly discovery.

Many startling twists and turns set a fairly fast-paced story, but I found the writing lumbered, and the characters were not convincing. I did, however, find the background about the indigenous people and their customs and traditions fascinating so there is a very positive side to the book.


Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review
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The latest Faye Longchamp mystery sees her returned to Oklahoma to attend a native arts conference with her husband Joe Mantooth, who will take the opportunity to visit family in the state. As the conference is about to start, Faye is meeting Cully Mantooth, Hollywood actor, skilled flutist and accomplished flute carver. And he has a gift for her, a special flute designed for her on order from Joe who has used his various tribal connections to bypass any one who got in the way of ordering this gift. The moment was exquisite and perfect...until the bomb!

Oklahoma City has known bombing before and the response was rapid to this event. Strangely, no one knew what this was about. No one claimed credit— or blame. There were white supremacists demonstrating outside the conference but no immediate connection found.

But something was literally unearthed that called for Faye’s expertise. The explosion opened up an area beneath the hotel rumored to have existed but not seen for decades...catacombs below the city. So multiple mysteries now: who is the bomber and why did he attack the hotel; what is the true story of the underground “city” and the items found there. Faye hopes to help the FBI while also being present for Joe, family and friends at the conference.

This continues to be an interesting series unafraid to move into new, difficult areas in American life: racial divides, the threat of white supremacy movements, the continuing problems of native peoples in the United States. In contrast, there are also exciting segments on native crafts, art, and culture. And there is Faye always.

I do continue to recommend this series. This book could be read as a stand-alone but knowing some background enhances the reading.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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This book was a pleasant surprise.  I wasn't familiar with the series;  but reading previous books in the series wasn't a prerequisite for enjoying this one.  While it might have been nice to know more about the background of the characters, this book stood on its own very well.

The characters were interesting and likable, and the subject matter was unusual and informative.  It's fascinating to know that people actually did live underground in Oklahoma City at one time.

The mystery was intriguing and came to a satisfying conclusion.  An enjoyable read.
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"Catacombs" is the fifth book I read from the series. I met the author 10 years ago when "Floodgates" released. A very elegant and sophisticated lady, and her elegance and sophistication have translated well into her books. 

Ms Evans always chooses social issues or events and carefully weaves her topics of interests into her fictional stories. By all means, her mystery novels are not cozy nor commercially written. She writes excellent mysteries with intense plots and memorable characters. In "Catacombs," the historical aspect about the Underground Chinatown is very interesting. I recommend "Catacombs" to historical mystery lovers who would find the story captivating and engrossing.
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Faye Longchamp is at a convention in Oklahoma City when a bomb goes off in her hotel.  During the investigation, three bodies are found in the catacombs.  Once again, Faye has found herself in the middle of a mystery.  

This is the 12th novel in the Faye Longchamp series.  Each book is well written and entertaining with engaging characters and a creative storyline.  Evans explores themes of racism in the past and present in a believable way.  I love this series and look forward to another book in this series.
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Catacombs is the 12th book in the Faye Longchamp mystery series by Mary Anna Evans. Due out 13th Aug 2019 from Poisoned Pen, it's 320 pages and will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats.

I read this book as a standalone without being familiar with the author or series. I had no trouble following the narrative or keeping the characters clear in my mind. There's enough backstory included that it gave me a powerful desire to hunt down the back catalog, without spoiling the earlier stories for me.

This is a procedural mystery featuring an archaeologist who is also a consultant for law enforcement. I like it that Faye is sharply intelligent and focused and the author allows her to be competent on her own terms. I also like it that she's a person of color and the author doesn't feel the need to shout it from the rooftops (I actually had to dig around pretty thoroughly to check that fact).

This book drew me in immediately with an explosion in the hotel which is the site of an academic conference on indigenous people in America. For fans of FBI type thrillers which are realistic enough to be believable, this one is a winner. The plot is fairly intricate, with several disparate parallel plot threads which are woven together well. The denouement is exciting and skillfully revealed.

Four stars. Well done. I'm looking forward to the next book. I've also acquired the first book in the series which has drawn me in from the first page. The author's a wizard with dramatic tension.
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It's the first book I read in this series and I'm hooked.
It's a fascinating, enthralling and well written mystery that keep you guessing and it's fun to read.
I appreciated the character development, they're both interesting and likeable, the setting and the plot.
It was a fun read and I loved the mix of cold case, archeology and mystery. It worked well and kept me hooked.
I look forward to reading other books in this series.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the Poisoned Pen Press and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Faye Longchamp, an archeologist, can always be counted on to find more than anyone expects and this case is no different.  She's visiting Oklahoma City with her husband Joe (he's a great character, btw) when a bomb goes off in the lobby of the hotel where they are staying. Is this about targeting the Native Americans in town for a conference or something else? The FBI calls her in, having worked with her before, when they discover a vast network of, well, catacombs which were used by the Chinese population of OKC many years ago.  Of course, the identity and motive of the bomber is related to something else Faye finds.  One of the nice things about this series (and admittedly I've only read a few) is that you always learn something, in this case about how Chinese immigrants were treated.  You will be fine with this as a standalone because the characters are well drawn and the mystery itself is contained within this volume.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  A good read.
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Catacombs was my first step into the Faye Longchamp series, and I am definitely going back to see how this series began. Mary Anna Evans weaves a wonderful mystery based on the history of the Oklahoma City underground. It's a fascinating take of survival, secrets, and family. A very special book and I can't wait to see where the author takes Faye next.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC in exchange of an honest review. 
This book has the best reviews and I thought I would enjoy it but I really cannot get into it at all. I don't think there is anything wrong with the writing of the book at all, I just think it isn't to my taste. I think the author has certain people that really love her books and I'm just not one of them. I cannot finish reading it because I am at chapter 6 and I am bored stiff.
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This is Evans' Faye Longchamp mystery #12.  Very interesting characters and stands alone even without having read previous in this series.  Pages start off with a BANG with a BOMB going off in a convention center in Oklahoma City. Who makes the best FBI agent?  An archaeologist by the name of Faye.  Story revolves around who set the bomb and why?  To really add depth to the story (HA HA) it is revealed that below ground are Catacombs that were homes to Chinese years ago.  Unique story line and is worth the time if for no other reason than the historic flavor.  "A copy of this book was provided by  Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley with no requirements for a review.  Comments here are my honest opinion."
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An action-packed thrill ride in a mysterious underground Chinatown, Catacombs delights and regales.  Another bomb has gone off in Oklahoma City, but it seems that this bomb was only designed to kill one person.  Is it a suicide bomber, or did someone else set off the bomb?  As the questions pile up, the FBI turns to Archeologist Faye Longchamp-Mantooth for help in finding the answers.

What I Like:

The main character, Faye, and her husband Joe are both relatable and admirable. It’s not often I run across characters I genuinely like as if they were real but Faye and her husband, Joe, are just such characters.  They are unassuming and hardworking family people who love and respect each other healthily and genuinely.  This genuineness is precisely what drives me and other readers to read book after book in this series.

I liked the way that the story explores social issues.   The characters confront racism in a way that enables the reader to see the racism through the main character’s eyes, rather than being told about the horrific way people can act. The same is true regarding the theme of invisibility, where groups of citizens - older adults, Chinese in the early 1900s and the working class are virtually invisible to society.  The plot of the story and the way the characters are developed leads the reader to empathize, which has a profound effect.

Learning about the Underground Chinatown in Oklahoma was fascinating and created the perfect setting for a mystery.  This piece of history has a story all its own, and the imagery in the novel enabled the reader to see and experience it.

What I Wish

I wish I knew more about the life of the bomber and that bomber’s family.  The story included relevant information, but it just felt like there was so much more to tell about them.  They were interesting enough that I wanted to know more.

I enjoyed reading this novel so much that I hope more stories feature Faye Longchamp-Mantooth and her genuine family ties.

To Read or Not to Read

Read the whole series if you haven’t already.  This book offers so much more than the typical who-done-it, you can’t miss it.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Dr. Faye Longchamp and her husband’s cousin, Cully Mantooth, are caught in an explosion in the Gershwin Hotel lobby that reveals a grand staircase to catacombs beneath the hotel.  Since Faye, as an archaeologist, has experience working with the FBI, she is quickly recruited to determine the relevance of the underground maze of tunnels and chambers.

While the bomber is killed in the blast, the mystery focuses on the why.  Catacombs is an excellent mystery, grounded in the history of the Chinese community living underground in downtown Oklahoma City.
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This is #12 in the Faye Longchamp mystery series, but it works as a standalone. This is my first venture into the books, and I was not confused by character relationships or any references to past events.

What I enjoyed:

1.  The story reveals timely cultural issues.

I had expected a straight-forward amateur detective-type mystery. While I got that (and it's a doozy), I also got a thoughtful, moving look at prejudices in our society. Even better? These arise naturally from the story circumstances. This isn't a book about an issue but a story that reveals an issue. There's a difference.

Evans writes with compassion, even as she describes the horrible ways that prejudices filter down through the years. Cully (an old movie star returning to Oklahoma) and Sly (Faye's father-in-law) both attended Indian schools. The under-funded schools lacked even basic items that make up "back-to-school" lists each year in the United States: pencils, paper, books. There was abuse at some schools. All of this is a true and shameful part of U.S. history. Both characters left without diplomas and had to build lives for themselves without it.

The catacombs of the title are the underground dwellings of a Chinese community in the early 20th century. These creative people dug through the walls of their below-ground basement apartments and created a multi-leveled living area beneath Oklahoma City. As strange as it sounds, this actually happened! Fascinating. Horrible, too. They weren't paid adequate wages and landlords refused to rent decent apartments to them. Why? Their ethnicity.

And then there's protest against the academic conference on Indigenous Art. It's disappointing but not surprising that certain types of people would protest this exploration of a culture that is not "theirs".

There's a running theme about the idea of "invisible people." Faye observes that the hotel maids are invisible to most. Those with power might not see them as people or consider their needs. But Faye does.

2.  Faye Longchamp-Mantooth is unique.

She's observant and astute, two qualities that I imagine archeologists need in abundance! (The tidbits of professional knowledge are fascinating.)

While she's definitely a strong woman and a feminist, she is considerate and understanding of different codes of honor. For example, both she and Cully are somewhat hurt in the bombing. Medics attend Faye first and she wants to protest. Cully is an old man! Examine him first! But she knows that his chivalrous nature and generational ideas would never allow him to be treated before a woman. So instead of protesting, she respects that by remaining silent. (And Cully does a jig to demonstrate his "healthy" state.)

3.  Faye and Joe's relationship is realistic and beautiful.

Evans gives us a realistic marital relationship here. Joe and Faye know each other, deeply care about each other, and feel secure enough in that love to argue together. (A healthy relationship doesn't mean a conflict-free one!) They support each other's work. She sees even more potential greatness lying inside him and is determined to make her husband shine. It's beautiful.

4. And more . . .

There's much more that I could rave about. The plot is great. The writing is terrific. All in all, it's a well-crafted story. Evans writes with compassion and understanding, and this is a wonderful book.

Thanks again to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for a copy of Catacombs in exchange for an honest review. It was a pleasure to read this book.
(Note: the review on my blog will go live on August 5, 2019.
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First of all I would like to thank Netgalley for the opportunity to read an arc of Catacombs.  I've been a fan of this series since the beginning but have not read the last couple of books so I happily jumped at the chance to read this one. 
Faye and Joe are at a conference of Indigenous art and artisans. The conference literally starts off with a bang. Faye is meeting with Joe's cousin Cully when a bomb goes off. Although shaken both Faye and Cully are ok. The FBI requests Faye's help, and a secret room below the hotel is revealed...along with the bodies of 3 little boys. Thoughts of the little bodies along with the legend of an underground city that the early Chinese inhabited is enough to get Faye's full attention. It's a race to discover who the bomber is and if there is a tie-in to the dead children in the mysterious room.  And then  one of the conference speakers disappears and the tension continues to mount. A surprise twist results in a breathless ending.
Mary Anna Evans gives us an intelligent well paced mystery interspersed with fascinating bits of the history of the Oklahoma City area. All her characters are interesting and well-developed. Cully and Jakob are new additions and I hope we get to see them more in the future. While this book can be read and enjoyed as a standalone I would recommend reading the first couple of books first if for no other reason than to gain an understanding of Faye and Joe's beginnings. I highly recommend Mary Anna Evans' Faye Longchamp series!
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Combining archaeology, crime-scene investigation, Hollywood stardom, history and mystery, Catacombs has something for many readers. 

The clock starts the first moment an explosion terrifies guests at an Oklahoma City hotel, but we have to go back in time to determine who set the bomb and why. The blast opens up a staircase to catacombs beneath the city - catacombs rumored to house thousands of immigrants a century before. 

Well-known archaeologist Faye Longchamp-Mantooth is at the historic hotel for a conference about indigenous peoples; the explosion sends her flying right into a mystery. Who wanted to destroy the hotel? Is it tied to the conference? Or is there something hidden in the catacombs that someone wants buried in the past? 

This was my first Faye Longchamp-Mantooth book, but it won’t be my last. I was able to jump right into the story and characters without having their backstories. 

Tying archaeology to crime-scene investigations, as well as the history of indigenous peoples and the society that lived under Oklahoma City was compelling. The characters are likable, and I want to know more about them.
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Catacombs is a fantastic book that I could not put down. I enjoyed the plot and characters. Well written and I have a new favorite author to add to my list.
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