Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: Clammed Up by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great plot and well drawn characters
Cons: First quarter is on the slow side
The Bottom Line:
Once it gets going
Twists and turns just keep coming
Promising debut

You Won't Get Me to Clam Up About This Debut

Since I read so many cozies, I pay attention to the Agatha Awards, which are given to the more tradition/cozy writers.  Of course, it is still rare I have read any of the nominees, but I often add them to my to be read pile.  This year, one of the nominees is Clammed Up, the first in a new series from Barbara Ross.  I can certainly see why it was nominated.

Julia Snowden has returned to her small Maine town to try to save the family clambake business.  Thanks to the down economy and a few bad business moves, they have until the end of the summer or they might lose the island they host on and the house her mother lives in.

One idea Julia has is hosting special events, and the first of those is a wedding happening the day before the official opening of the season.  However, when Julia arrives on the island with most of the wedding party, they find the best man hanging inside the old house on the island.  Now that the police has shut them down, she needs to solve the crime quickly in order to save her family's business.

I figure it is always a good sign when a body is found in the first chapter.  With a strong start like that, it means the rest of the book will be strong, too, right?  In this case, unfortunately, that isn't what happened.  Julia spends much of the first quarter of the book worrying about what this will mean for her family's business (understandable) and not doing much investigating.  In fact, I was getting a little frustrated with things.

But then she decides to really start investigating, and the book picks up.  For the rest of the story, I had a hard time setting it aside and couldn't turn the pages fast enough.  There are plenty of good twists and red herrings before we reach the end.

The characters really come alive as well.  A few of them could be better developed, but I liked them enough to find several scenes at the end of the book very moving.  Julia was the best developed, and I loved how she grew by the end of the book.  I can't wait to see where the author takes her in the next story.

Being a culinary cozy, there are six recipes in the back.  And not being a fish or sea food fan, I wasn't expecting to be interested in any of them.  Actually, there are three I would definitely be interested in trying, although that would still require cooking….

While I did find the first quarter slow, the rest of the book more than made up for it.  Clammed Up certainly deserves its nomination for the Agatha, and I will be making my reservation for another clambake with Julia and her family.

And from here, I recommend the rest of the Maine Clambake Mysteries in order.


  1. Haven't heard of this author before, but I love cozies, love lighthouses and the water, so I think I'm adding it to my tbr list.

    Thanks for linking your review to the Foodies Read Challenge!

    1. It's definitely a good cozy, so sounds like you should be pretty happy when you read it.


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