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The Meriwether Murder
By Malcolm Shuman

Avon, 1998, 262 pages

Reviewed by J. Ashley (3/99)

This is the second Alan Graham mystery (the first was Burial Ground), Alan Graham being a contract archeologist near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Alan's job is to record historical information of the Desiree Plantation, which he investigates with his sidekick, Pepper (another archeologist). They find, in the graveyard, a stone with the single name, "Louis," which leads them on a hunt for an elusive man who died nearly two hundred years before.

But someone wants to stop any digging around at the plantation. The owner, Mrs. Ouida, has been put into a nursing home, pronounced senile, and her assets handled by her belligerent lawyer nephew. Alan gets his hands on some diaries that Mrs. Ouida had managed to retain of the plantation, and someone seems determined to take them away from him. Whoever "Louis" was and whatever he did, someone wants to keep dead and buried, going so far as to set fire to the plantation and to murder the caretaker.

Alan and Pepper begin an investigation into the murky past of the Louisiana plantation, looking for an historical figure who may explain everything. As they investigate, Alan's affection for Pepper grows, warring with painful experiences in his past.

This book wasn't bad. I had no idea what a contract archeologist was, but, according to the story, their job is to investigate land sites targeted by developers to ascertain if something on the land has historical value, or if the land can be classified as wetlands, and so forth. And since I like research and history and the intriguing world of the past, Alan's investigation of both present and past held my attention.

The blurb on the back unfortunately gave some of the mystery away, so I had anticipated the identity of Louis, which isn't suspected by the characters for a while. It might have been more intriguing if the blurb writer had been a little more coy. So if you pick up this book, don't read the cover, just start in!

I found the writing in places to be a little tedious, but overall, I liked the story. Alan and Pepper are likeable characters, the atmosphere of old Louisiana was palpable, and the story was interesting. Burial Ground, the first book, introduces Alan Graham, and hopefully another will be right around the corner!

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