Thursday, November 07, 2013

New Amateur Sleuth, Maine Mysteries: CLAMMED UP by Barbara Ross

It's always exciting to catch the first book of a new mystery series and realize it's the start of years of enjoyment ahead -- and Barbara Ross's CLAMMED UP is a prize. A paperback original via Kensington (whose expanding line of mysteries is varied and challenging), CLAMMED UP features Julia Snowden, recently returned to her family's "Maine clambake" business in the midst of a crisis.

Snowden, with her venture capital expertise, is a reluctant return to the rocky coast and its rugged beauty. Her intent is to rescue the family tourist-dependent operation and get back to her real life. A quick financial arrangement with the local banker, some energy into staffing and marketing, and she should be able to set her sister, mother, and brother-in-law back on their feet.

But as her first commercial event of the season begins, a catered wedding on her family's photogenic island, the mood is quickly shattered by the discovery of a corpse -- of the best man from the wedding. Snowden's schedule for the business rescue dies at the same moment. Ross provides a completely convincing reason for Julia to turn sleuth -- time is against her, and the stakes are personal and irreplaceable. Crime on the island? The police aren't going to clear things for the next scheduled event right away, and that's deadly for the family finances.
"It's just ... I keep wondering why the island? Whoever took him there, killed him, and hung him up went to a lot of trouble. Why go through all that? What was the point?"

Jamie's blond brows rose, providing an even better view of his sky-blue eyes ...

"Just tell me this," I persisted. "How long do you think we'll be shut down?"

That did get me a look of sympathy, which scared me more than his just-the-facts-ma'am persona. "Julia, I'm sorry. I'm sure Lieutenant Binder told you it will take as long as it takes."
If you haven't run across the term "clambake," you'll enjoy discovering its components, from lobsters to clams to traditional side dishes, as well as the logistics of the feast. And if you're already a connoisseur, the menu -- and recipes included at the back of the book -- will be a great reminder of the tastes of the Maine coast.

Julia Snowden is an intriguing protagonist, scrappy and smart and finding life and love on the Down East coast to be more than she's prepared for. I devoured the book and enjoyed knowing there's already a sequel on the way.  Enjoyable author website, too:

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