Thursday, December 29, 2016

Iced Under (A Maine Clambake Mystery #5)

Author:  Barbara Ross
Genre:  Mystery, Cozy

Mass Market Paperback; Ebook; (Paperback LP)
9781496700391; (9781410495778)
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
December 27, 2016; (March 15, 2017)
$7.99; $5.99; ($26.99) Amazon


The snow is deep in Maine's Busman's Harbor and the mighty rivers are covered in ice.  Snowden Family Clambake Company proprietor Julia Snowden and her mother, Jacqueline, are hunkered down for the winter when a mysterious package arrives - heating up February with an unexpected case of murder...

Inside the mystery package is an enormous black diamond necklace that once belonged to Julia's great-grandmother and disappeared in the 1920s.  Who could have sent it - and why?  Julia's search for clues takes her on a perilous journey through her mother's troubled family history, from a squabble over the family fortune in "frozen water" to the recent unexplained death of Jacqueline's long-lost cousin Hugh - who'd been missing and presumed drowned for more than forty years.  To protect her mother's inheritance, Julia must fend off a small army of feuding relatives, solve the mystery surrounding Hugh's demise, and get back home before the next blizzard buries them all...


Julia Snowden lives in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and experiencing a harsh winter.  With her boyfriend Chris in Florida, and the restaurant they run part-time closed for the winter, she's planning on spending some time with her mother.  While heading out to visit Jacqueline (Julia's mother), asks her daughter to pick up the mail on her way over.  Along with the regular mail, Julia is given a package for her mother, simply wrapped, with no return address.  After arriving at Jacqueline's, they open it and discover a beautiful necklace, of which the center is a huge black diamond.  Jacqueline identifies it as being The Black Widow, which belonged at one time to an ancestor.  Along with the necklace is a simple note:  "For Windsholme".

Windsholme is the mansion on Julia's family-owned Morrow Island, where they hold their summer clambakes.  It was once beautiful but has recently burned to a shell.  It is obvious the necklace is meant to rebuild the once majestic home; but questions abound:  Someone knew about the fire, but who sent it?  Is it real?  Where has it been all these years?  There are other questions as well, and Jacqueline has asked Julia's help in finding out who sent the necklace.

She does her due diligence:  contacts their attorney, has the necklace appraised, and put away for safekeeping.  But then comes her real investigation, so she heads to the local historical society to discover more about her family, hoping to find the clues she needs.  What she discovers there sends her to Boston, where she finds something that changes her world as she knows it...

When Julia arrives in Boston, she learns that not only does she have family there, but they know all about her.  Stunned by this revelation, she also finds that they think she's there for a very different purpose:  Jacqueline's long-lost cousin Hugh has recently died, and they believe she's there for the funeral.  Since Jacqueline has believed him dead over forty years, it is another revelation for Julia to digest, along with the fact that his death may have very well been murder.  But who would want to murder a man who only had weeks to live anyway?

While she is thrust into this mystery, she doesn't tell anyone about the necklace, trying to find out if any of her 'new' relatives sent it.  What she does find out is more about her family, how they know about her and her mother; and why they've kept this secret for years without contacting them.  Although it's a bittersweet reunion of sorts, she still needs to find out if her mother owns the necklace outright, or if any of these people have a claim.  What is true, however, is that not all of her newfound family wants her there, but at least one might be a killer...

Iced Under is the fifth book in the Main Clambake Mysteries, and a delightful book to read.  We learn more about the Morrow family history, Windsholme, and Morrow Island.  Ms. Ross weaves fact into fiction and it is indeed quite interesting.  I loved learning about the history of cut ice, and how it became a "hot commodity".  Merging fact with fiction has always been a favorite of mine to read, and this author does it well.

Her characters are well-developed, so much so that I took a deep dislike to one of them (one guess as to whom) and nearly cried 'foul!' at what I thought this person did not deserve in the least, having had so much already.  It is a testament to Ms. Ross' writing that I was drawn to the characters, who have enough personality to give them a realistic feel, and this is a very good thing indeed.  I love the fact that Julia is a strong, intelligent woman who sticks to a purpose and can subtly ask questions without being intrusive; and that the police consider her an ally of sorts - listening to her - instead of an enemy.

There were plenty of twists and turns, each leading to a new discovery regarding Jacqueline's family; and enough of a mystery to keep me reading to the end.  When we finally do come to the ending, there is sadness tinged with happiness; loss of family with gain; and the anticipation that the next book in the series will not only bring new adventures for Julia and her family, but perhaps brings one or more of the new members along for the ride.  Highly recommended.

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