Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stowed Away (A Maine Clambake Mystery #6)

Author:  Barbara Ross
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781432845841; 9781496700414; 9781541455740
Kensington Publishing
280 Pages
$21.24; $7.99; $24.99; $6.99 Amazon
December 26, 2017


It's June in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and Julia Snowden and her family are working hard to get their authentic Maine clambake business ready for summer.  Preparations must be put on hold, however, when a mysterious yacht drops anchor in the harbor - and delivers an unexpected dose of murder...

When Julia's old prep school rival Wyatt Jane invites her to dinner on board her billionaire fiancé's decked-out yacht, Julia arrives to find a sumptuous table set for two - and the yachtsman dead in his chair.  Suspicion quickly falls on Wyatt, and Julia's quest to dredge up the truth leads her into the murky private world of a mega-rich recluse who may not have been all that he seemed...


It's June in Busman's Harbor, and Julia Snowden and her family are preparing for the summer tourist season, when people will flock to their private island and have a real Maine clambake while enjoying the season.  But on their island stands the shell of the home Julia spent all her summers growing up; decayed by age and fire.  Since her mother came into quite a bit of money, she wants to restore the home, but Julia wants to tear it down; still, her mother is willing to see an architect that their friend Quentin has said is in town and can possibly help them.

Imagine Julia's surprise when the friend turns out to be an old school roommate of Julia's - and not one fondly remembered.  While she keeps her thoughts to herself, she still doesn't trust the woman.  But Wyatt Jayne acts as if she doesn't remember the incident that still stands clear in Julia's mind, and when plans for the house have been barely discussed, she invites everyone to dinner aboard her boyfriend's yacht, which is in harbor for renovations.  After Julia meets the boyfriend - Geoffrey Bower - she's surprised that Wyatt would even be attracted to him, but likes him nonetheless.

But it's the next day that even more surprises are in store.  While Julia and her family (and boyfriend Chris) are discussing what to do with the house - restore, renovate or tear down - that she receives a tearful phone call from Wyatt that something's occurred and she needs her at the yacht.  Julia and Chris race to the harbor, and find an almost hysterical Wyatt - and a very dead Geoffrey with a hideous grin on his face.

But this is not all - a crew member has disappeared along with a diamond ring that Julia glimpsed on the table; her niece Page has a new friend with green eyes the exact color of Chris's; Quentin seems to be closer to Wyatt than he's saying; and she also discovers that her friend Genevieve is the chef on the yacht and was hoping for a romantic weekend with Detective Flynn, Julia's once nemesis on the local police force.  But when the police start looking at Wyatt as a serious suspect in the obvious murder, Quentin asks Julia to help her, and she reluctantly agrees - with the help of an unlikely source, Flynn, who's also on the outside due to his relationship with Genevieve. But there's another surprise on the horizon, and it's one that might change the game for everyone involved...

This is the sixth book in the Maine Clambake Mysteries, and I believe that it's the best one yet.  There's the mystery of the ring, which no one seems to have seen but Julia but she knows it's connected somehow, yet since the boat was deserted at the time Wyatt found the body - Geoffrey had given everyone the night off - there's suspects aplenty but sorting through them isn't easy since none of them are inclined to talk and all of them had apparent alibis for the evening.   But Julia plods on, determined for the sake of her friendship with Quentin that she'll do her best to find the truth of the matter.

I truly enjoyed reading this book.  The inhabitants of Busman's Harbor are a varied bunch, and Ms. Ross has a way of bringing them to life, giving each and every character a distinct nature that contribute to the story.  The town she has created seems warm and inviting, and while tourists are welcomed during the summer, it's apparent that those From Away aren't part of their circle which envelops only friends and family, those who they care about and hold dear.  It's this feeling that gives the books its personality and makes it a wonderful read.

We watch as Julia once again uses her wit to sort through the clues - which are plenty - and come to the heart of the matter.  The series grows with each book, and in this one her relationship with Detective Flynn goes through a change, one for the good, as they realize that they need each other and are working toward the same goal in the end.

The story moves at a quick pace, the writing flows, the setting is descriptive and vivid, the mystery is well-thought out and keeps you looking for any evidence along with Julia.  I also like the fact that the police are not cartoon buffoons who can't get anything right;  both Flynn and Binder know what they're doing; the difference is that they're looking in other areas, and since Julia's not a cop, she doesn't have to follow the same rules; and it was nice to see that Flynn actually listened to - and believed - her theory about the murder.

In this book we once again watch Julia as she navigates her relationship with Chris; we learn more about Chris's family and more about Quentin; we learn that not all secrets are good and that what seems to be perfect isn't always so.  It will be interesting to see where these are taken in the next installment.

As always, Ms. Ross never disappoints: When the ending comes and the murder was solved it was all believable and gratifying.  The tale was intriguing and the clues were, for the most part, overt; the threads of the mystery were tightly woven and it all came together nicely.  This can be read as a stand alone, since there is enough information where you don't feel muddled, but since this is such an enjoyable series I would recommend that you read them all.  For myself, I eagerly look forward to the next.  Highly recommended.


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