About STRANGERS , sixth in the Faye Longchamp mystery series–Faye Longchamp and Joe Wolf Mantooth have, on the strength of Faye’s newly minted Ph.D., founded an archaeological consulting firm…just in time for the economy to tank. But neither of them is known for throwing up their hands and giving up, so they’ve landed their first big project at a historic home in St. Augustine, Florida. America’s oldest city is the perfect place for archaeologists to dig up the past, but four centuries is long enough for the city to have accumulated some skeletons that should probably stay buried and some ghosts that can’t be exorcised. Within a day of their arrival, a lovely young woman has disappeared, leaving behind a smear of blood, a collection of priceless artifacts, and a note asking for Faye’s help. Within two days, the missing woman’s boyfriend is found floating in the Matanzas River, his throat slashed. The detective in charge of the case, who believes that the artifacts are a key to solving the crime, hires Faye as a consultant to track down their origin.
The artifacts Faye and Joe excavate at their work site make no historical sense. They date from every era of St. Augustine history, from the Native Americans to the conquistadors to the Gilded Age robber barons to the Roaring Twenties elite. Casting a pall over the work is the discovery of a buried cache of children’s toys from the 1920s, which hits eight-months-pregnant Faye particularly hard. And Dunkirk Manor, the mansion they are investigating, is haunted in a way that science-minded Faye can’t explain. Perhaps it is haunted by the ghost of its current owners’ dead child. Perhaps the spirit of a starlet murdered while filming a silent movie nearby still waits, longing for her married lover. Perhaps the soul of Allyce Dunkirk, the lady of the house during the Jazz Age, is bound to this house that she poured her heart into making uniquely beautiful, because it was the only outlet for her art that society could approve. Or perhaps there are no ghosts here, only the remnants of pain so deep that death can’t wipe it away.
In the house’s attic, the most stunning artifact is uncovered: the diary of a priest who left Spain in 1565 and was present at the founding of St. Augustine. Father Domingo describes how he watched the conquistadors as they murdered both the Europeans they branded infidels and the Native Americans they called heathen, until he reached his breaking point, walking away from his countrymen and seeking refuge with the so-called heathen. His tragic description of first contact between Europe and the Americas drives Faye to spend late nights translating the manuscript, and the stresses of running her business, helping the police, worrying over the lost woman, arguing with Joe, and working with Father Domingo’s diary may be more than a very pregnant woman can bear.
But the ghosts of the Ancient City are demanding masters, and Faye is driven to uncover their secrets–until it becomes clear that what they seek is Faye herself. And her child…
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