December 13, 2011

Sweet songs of the dead

By Gin Phillips
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You don’t have to be a fan of archeology, the supernatural or the American Southwest to enjoy Come In and Cover Me, a smart, engrossing ghost story about 37-year-old Santa Fe archeologist Ren Taylor, whose discoveries are sometimes guided by the spirits of the ancient people who once lived where Ren digs.

Winner of Barnes & Noble’s Discover Award for her first novel, The Well and the Mine, Gin Phillips has created a story as haunting, compelling and lyrical as Ren’s relationship with her brother Scott, who died when Ren was 12. Scott announces his midnight, ghostly visits by softly singing Bring Springsteen or humming Bob Dylan—music that brings Ren back to happier times, before Scott was killed and her parents’ marriage fell apart.

But this connection with the past brings more than good memories. With what she believes is Scott’s help, Ren sees a female spirit that leads her to unearth a stunning set of prehistoric bowls and a huge archeological find. The bowls seem to be the work of the Mimbres Indian tribe, who were known for their simple geometric designs and vanished in New Mexico around the start of the 12th century. Convinced that the bowls are connected to the spirit who guided her to them, Ren becomes determined to piece together the story of the artist’s life, shard by shard.

When fellow archeologist Silas Cooper believes he has discovered more bowls made by this artist, Ren rushes to the site. She and Silas quickly become more than colleagues, but as their relationship grows, so does Ren’s ability to connect with the dead and the spirits related to her Mimbres artist. And not surprisingly for Ren or the reader, Ren soon learns that she must choose between the ghosts or Silas; the past or the present.

Despite a somewhat predictable plot, Come In and Cover Me is a moving, well-crafted story brought to life through believable characters, vivid details and honest prose. Phillips has provided the reader with a true find—an ending surprising, satisfying and memorable novel that illustrates the power of good storytelling.

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Come In and Cover Me

Come In and Cover Me

By Gin Phillips
ISBN 9781594488443

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