Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

Review: Digging Up Death


I spent a delightful couple of hours waiting in my car the other day while my Precious Redhead delayed coming out of her SAT test. It wasn’t her fault and to call the hours delightful is a stretch. But they were made better by a new mystery from author Gina Conroy, Digging Up Death

This story had some real positives. First, the title and cover were intriguing. Learning from the back cover blurb that the main character was an archaeologist made me laugh. But then I’d never expect to find an archaeologist dressed like the gal on the front cover. Like I said, intriguing.

Here’s the info from the back cover:

To unearth a killer, you have to get your fingernails dirty. Archaeology Professor Mari Duggins is adjusting to life as a single mom, but she’s caught between the pull of her former flame and her ex-husband. When her colleague is murdered and her ex is accused of stealing an Egyptian artifact, Mari interferes in the FBI investigation, compelled to prove the innocence of her children’s father. Soon she is buried deep in suspects. Her old flame, her student and tenant, the office secretary. No one is who they appear to be, and she begins to wonder where her loyalty and true affections lie. Mari Duggins’ life caves in as she tries to excavate the truth, but realizes only God can dig her out of the hole she’s created. Will Mari sort through her muddled feelings and put her trust in someone else? Or will the truth bury her alive?

The mystery in this book sucked me in: an explosion heard over the phone, a death-by-natural causes dubbed a murder, stolen artifacts, and devious people surrounding the main character. Luckily, for me, more opportunities to read cropped up allowing me to finish the book in just a few days.

Halfway through day #2 I literally put my hand to my head and said, “Oh my gosh. I know what happened.” And what a lovely little twist it was! The whole situation wraps up neatly!

spinning starspinning starspinning starI can only give it 3 stars for a couple of reasons, though. (And if you’re familiar with my reviews, you know it’s hard for me to give 3 stars.) First, the romance in the story is not satisfying. As I got toward the end, all I could hear in my head was, “It’ll never last.” Well of course not! The story actually had two fairly equal heroes. Some chemistry on one side, complete devotion on the other. To just choose one at the end sparked all sorts of alarms.

Second, the main character had issues, and not the good kind that give a character depth and strengthen her arch. I felt through the first third of the book she was constantly angry and hated men in particular. A little too sarcastic and very self-absorbed, she did improve as the story moved forward. Her reactions displayed a wandering personality type, switching core values and archetype traits depending on the needs of the moment. This was specifically shown when she destroyed evidence. I can excuse a lot of things, but impeding a police investigation isn’t one of them. 

Because she didn’t stay true to herself, her character didn’t work. I couldn’t begin to assign her to one or even a mixture of two archetypes. And because she seemed rather schizophrenic, neither of her fellows worked well with her. No wonder she couldn’t choose.

The mystery really did shine, though.

Author: Marji Laine

Marji is a recently "graduated" homeschooling mom whose twin girls have blessed her by sticking around the nest for a little longer. She spends her days directing the children’s music program at her church and working with the authors of Write Integrity Press to put out the best possible version of their books. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

6 thoughts on “Review: Digging Up Death

  1. I also so enjoyed Digging Up Death. I found myself laughing out loud at several parts of the book. I loved Mari’s character and although I did get frustrated with her during indecisive moments I love when a character makes me feel that way. So many twists and turns made it a very interesting and entertaining read and I can’t wait for the next book! How can she turn down a man in a fedora?!


  2. Hi Marji. I rather enjoyed Digging Up Death. It’s my kind of light, easy reading mystery. I don’t think it was meant to be a romantic-mystery, so I had no issue with Mari’s “choice” left hanging. I also thought her character was portrayed well. Let’s face it, the woman is a mess. She’s got way too much going on and way too much baggage to behave rationally. She’s lost in more ways than one and behaves accordingly (I can relate). Love the blog, by the way. We seem to walk in the same circles, though I don’t believe we’ve crossed paths. Perhaps at ACFW this September. God bless.


    • It is a light, easy-reading mystery! And like I said, it gave me the delightful distraction I need while waiting for my girl to come out. (HOURS! YIKES!) Thanks so much for opening up a new perspective!

      I look forward to meeting you in Indy, Ron!


  3. I have to respectfully disagree! I thought Mari’s character was true-to-life. She had a lot going on in both her professional and personal lives and I think a lot of readers can relate to that. I read this book several months ago and just last week I found myself wondering what Mari was up to! 🙂 I think that’s a good sign of a great read, if you find the characters so realistic that you wonder what they are doing outside of the plot. I too went into the read expecting a mystery. I was pleasantly surprised when it was character driven, with a side of romance!


    • I so appreciate your candor, Brenda! Funny how stories will strike people differently. Had the same situation just yesterday with my daughter. She’s reading a book I just loved and doesn’t like it much at all. (What?!)

      So we’ll disagree on this one, but I’m glad for a different point of view. Feel free to chime in anytime!