Friday, December 14, 2018

Steamed Open (A Maine Clambake Mystery #7)

Author:  Barbara Ross
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496717948
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $6.99 Amazon
December 18, 2018


It's summertime in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy - or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake's supply.  Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick's decision.  But which one of them was angry enough to kill?  

Beachcombers, lighthouse buffs, and clammers are outraged after Frick puts up a gate in front of his newly inherited mansion.  When Julia urges him to reconsider, she's the last to see him alive - except the person who stabs him in the neck with a clam rake.  As she pores through a long list of suspects, Julia meets disgruntled employees, rival heirs, and a pair of tourists determined to visit every lighthouse in America.  They all have secrets, and Julia will have to work fast to expose the guilty party - or see this season's clam harvest dry up for good.


Julia Snowden runs her family's clambake business, and the end of summer is near.  But one morning everything is delayed for the funeral of a local, Heloise 'Lou' Herrickson, a woman who was generous and loved by all who knew her.  But the funeral takes a turn when Lou's heir, Bartholomew Frick, shows up late and doesn't speak to anyone, then leaves just as quickly when the service is over.

But what really causes problems is when Frick closes off the beach and road access in front of Herrickson House, angering the townspeople.  The beach has been used daily by clammers who make their living, beachcombers, including one who lives in a nearby cottage, and the occasional tourist who stay in a small home next to the lighthouse. 

When Julia goes to talk to Frick she comes across the housekeeper who has quit rather than work for him, and her attempts at getting him to open the beach again are fruitless.  But she learns later that day that Frick has been found dead, murdered, and she might have been one of the last people to see him alive.

When she's asked by the Snugg sisters, who run a bed and breakfast across the street from her home, to help the housekeeper, Ida, prove her innocence if needed, she can't say no.  But things get complicated sooner than later when her boyfriend Chris has secrets of his own, and it starts to affect their life.  He also asks for Julia's help in something, but she needs more information before she's willing to commit herself.  But Chris isn't so willing to share, and it causes problems.

Now Julia has to help find a killer before someone is wrongfully accused and she doesn't realize just how complicated her life will become.  Will she find a link that will lead her to the truth, or will it be too late and the wrong person will be convicted?

Once again Ms. Ross has given us an intriguing mystery to be unraveled, because that is exactly what we must do.  Take the tapestry she has woven and unravel it, thread by thread, to find the truth hidden inside.  It is an engaging tale that manages to take each piece and connect them seamlessly, with the reader discovering the connections one by one, the same as Julia.  While there are plenty of 'aha!' moments, it is indeed a pleasure to watch her as she takes each one and puts the puzzle together, coming to a satisfying conclusion.

This was a highly enjoyable read, and I applaud Ms. Ross on a story that is both delightful and believable.  We learn more about Chris's past and why he is the person he is, which, as a subplot, brings compassion and understanding to the narrative.  The characters are convincing, and the descriptions of the clambake make you want to experience it firsthand.

At the last, I was sorry to see the story end.  It kept me reading throughout the night, captured in the mystery.  This is the seventh book in the series, and quite as good as the others; I hope to see it continue on for a good long while.  Highly recommended.


More on Barbara Ross's Books:

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