Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery
Cons: A minor niggle or two, but nothing to get steamed over
The Bottom Line:
Beach access denied
Was it motive for murder?
Closing a Beach Leaves Everyone Steamed
While I quite obviously enjoy a lot of different books by different authors, there are some I really look forward to every year. One of those is Barbara Ross's Maine Clambake Mysteries. I've come to love the characters, and the mysteries are always engaging. Steamed Open is the seventh in the series, and it is another winner.
Lou Herrickson, a beloved member of the Busman's Harbor community, has recently died. Lou has left everything to her late husband's grandnephew, Bart Frick. That includes the mansion where she lived and the lighthouse and beach connected to it. Lou had always left the beach open to the public, but the first thing Bart does is fence off the beach. The locals who make a living by clamming are the first to discover this when they arrive to start their morning of work, and that's when Julia Snowden becomes concerned. Her family uses clams harvested from this beach in the Snowden Family clambake. Hoping to resolve things faster than a court challenge will allow, Julia goes to talk to Bart the next morning only to find him closed to reopening the beach. A few hours later, Bart is dead. The suspects range from those impacted to by closing of the beach to any potential heirs to a couple obsessed with lighthouses. Can Julia help find the killer?
The pacing of this mystery is wonderful. There are lots of questions from the very beginning, and as Julia gets answers to some of them, more pop up. This keeps us from seeing the solution until Julia figures it out. The climax is creative and ties everything up perfectly.
The plot is enhanced with a couple of sub-plots, both of which are continuations of storylines introduced in the last book. No, that doesn't mean you need to read the books in order, although you'll better appreciate what happens here if you have. And, trust me, you'll definitely want to read the entire series once you start, so you might as well start from the beginning, right?
Another reason I love this series is the characters. They are like onions, with more layers to be revealed the further we go into the story. While I usually find the suspects in most the mysteries I read to be compelling, the characters introduced here are much deeper than they first appear, and as we get to know them better, it changes our perspective on the story. There are some deep subjects broached here without the book losing its cozy status. Most of the series regulars don't get significant page time since this is the height of tourist season, so they are busy working. It is nice to check in with them, however. The exception to that is Julia's boyfriend Chris. One of the subplots involves him, and we learn a lot about him as a result. It explains much about his character, too.
Since clams are a huge part of the book, it's no surprise that two of the recipes at the end of the book feature them. For the non-sea food lovers (like me), we also get a couple of baked goods recipes that sound delicious.
If you haven't yet met Julia, you are in for a treat. And if you are already a fan, Steamed Open will satisfy your craving for another delectable mystery.
Be sure to check in for the rest of the Maine Clambake Mysteries.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.