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DIGGING UP MOMMA by Sarah Shankman



Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
Publisher: Pocket

The seventh in this well-received series (He Was Her Man, 1993, etc.) finds the author's journalist heroine Samantha (Sam) Adams in a state of shock after receiving a letter from the mother she had thought dead--killed, along with Sam's father--in a plane crash when Sam was just eight. The letter asks Sam to come to the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe and includes details that leave her in no doubt of the writer's identity. Thus begins an unreal saga that has Sam's mother (known for five years in Santa Fe as interior designer Johanna Hall) committing suicide soon after her meeting with Sam. Trying to cope with her grief, the funeral arrangements, and the never-explained reason for her mother's cry for help, Sam moves into Johanna's house in the hills. She gets support from her mother's lawyer LoEllen and from handyman Jesus, a gifted painter who uses old cars as canvases. She also meets suave New York gallery owner Antonio Pomodoro; neighbor Jayvee Paris, who refuses to talk to her; and Jayvee's young daughter Isabel, a replica of Sam at the same age. There's a subplot involving distraught guru Smart Wonder, and there's nasty detective Victor Vigil, whose mother plays a crucial role when Sam finally confronts the villain in an old turquoise mine where, at last, all is made clear. With its heavily manipulated plotting, its string of exotic nutcases moving things along, and a depressed, nightmare-ridden Sam, this is one of the author's less successful forays. Intriguing unanswered questions, though, plus southwestern lore and a high suspense level, save the day.