Maine

“Fogged Inn” by Barbara Ross

 

Book Cover - Fogged Inn

“Fogged Inn” is the fourth book in Barbara Ross’ excellent Maine Clambake Mysteries series and has been nominated for an Agatha Award in this year’s “Best Contemporary Novel” category. Not surprising, given the opening. And everything after that. :-)

 

At 5 AM, Gus yells up the stairs, “There’s a dead guy in the walk-in!” and disrupts Julia Snowden’s work-exhausted sleep. The yelling continues until she joins Gus in the restaurant, ready to disprove this absurd idea so she can go back to bed. She enters the walk-in and sees…a dead guy. Julia is now fully awake. I prefer radio alarms, but that’s just me.

 

The dead guy sat at the restaurant bar the night before, but none of the other diners seemed to notice him. So, who is he? How did he get into the walk-in? The restaurant had been closed and locked at 1 AM after cleanup. Chris (Julia’s boyfriend and partner in the restaurant) would have noticed the leftover customer, so the body dump happened after then. The man has no ID, no bullet holes, and there is no blood on the floor. Aside from the why, how and where did the guy die?

 

During “Fogged Inn,” Ross presents us with a thoroughly entertaining variation on the locked room puzzle, complete with a cast of Agatha Christie type retirees who reveal their connections to each other over the course of the clever, multi-layered tale. To add to the intrigue, they had received gift certificates for the same night the dead guy appeared, but Julia has no record of who purchased the certificates. And, more baffling, none of those guests acknowledged knowing each other during the long evening.

 

As the story evolves and decades old secrets are exposed, the past overshadows the present. Dysfunctional relationships are uncovered, with unintended consequences and tragic events as the fallout. The more Julia discovers, the more items linked to the past start disappearing, and the greater the danger that surrounds her.

 

The wonderful ensemble characters return to enthrall us with changes in Gus’ life and in the naturally developing relationship between Julia and Chris. Julia’s childhood friend, the Police Officer Jamie Dawes, is involved in the investigation, Binder & Flynn return as the irritating State cops, and Chris’ talents are revealed in delicious ways. Family members drop in, lending support, and Julia’s acceptance into small-town living seems almost certain when she’s invited to join Sit’n’Knit.

 

Because the story takes place in the winter, there is no clambake in “Fogged Inn.” Happily, there is still a lot of cooking going on and wonderful recipes to be found at the end of the book. We get a look at what winter in a tourist town is like when all the tourists are gone, where the locals scramble to earn a living and gather at the local watering hole (Gus’s place) to trade stories. Julia and Chris share restaurant space with Gus, the lovable grump that owns and runs Gus’s at breakfast and lunch. Julia and Chris take over only for the dinner crowd, just for the off-season, as Gus’s Too.

 

As with the rest of the series, Ross blends hardy New England life and the mystery together beautifully, so that readers enjoy learning about coastal Maine, wonderful food, and our favorite people while the bodies pop up.

 

Congratulations to Barbara Ross for this well-deserved Agatha nomination for “Fogged Inn.” Malice Domestic attendees will vote at our convention at the end of April, 2017.

 

Read about Barbara Ross’ writing process (and more) here:-)

 

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Please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com for more information about the series and Barb Ross’ upcoming appearances.

 

 

“Whispers Beyond the Veil” by Jessica Estevao

 

Book Cover - Whispers Beyond the Veil - Jessica Estevao

“Whispers Beyond the Veil” is the first book in the Change of Fortune series. Jessica Estevao has penned a self-reliant female character who thinks on her feet in risky situations and when cornered, often chooses the path most likely to keep her out of jail.

 

Jail? This is no ordinary gal growing up in a quaint family business. Ruby Proulx is a con artist, who makes a living by taking money from the gullibles passing through the circus tents. But, even with all the flimflam miracle cures and tarot card readings, she and her father are just getting by, in part because he drinks and schemes the earnings away. This is 1890s Canada, and when a dangerous scam results in a death, and her father disappears, she flees south to Maine to an aunt she’s never met.

 

Ruby’s arrival at her aunt Honoria’s hotel is a surprise to everyone except Honoria. Happy to repay Honoria for her kindness, Ruby continues to use her skills with séances and Tarot cards to help her aunt’s hotel survive. A hotel that features ‘spiritualists’ as the main attraction.

 

But, Ruby is caught between skeptics who feel that Honoria is scamming the visitors and stealing their hard-earned money and a wish to have a home she’s never had before. She’d like to fess up that she’s a fraud, but telling the truth may only put her on the street or put her aunt in jail. What’s a con artist to do?

 

The characters are either sweetly oblivious to the cons, in on them, or working hard to expose them. A handsome policeman, a psychic investigator, bodies popping up, and peeks behind the scenes of a con artist’s life, enrich the story, but when Ruby becomes a suspect in several crimes, she must guard both her heart and her skills to escape the snares.

 

With an inventive main character and Old Orchard Beach as the setting, this new series is off to a great start and “Whispers Beyond the Veil” has been nominated for an Agatha Award. Please visit www.jessicaestevao.com for more information about the Change of Fortune books as well as her other series, written as Jessica Crockett, also great fun.

 

 

Author Profile: Barbara Ross

 

Headshot - BarbaraRoss

Barbara Ross has been entertaining us with the Maine Clambake Mysteries since 2013, when “Clammed Up” was first published. “Clammed Up” received an Agatha nomination for Best Contemporary Novel, along with several other honors. Readers loved its engaging characters set in the world of Maine Clambakes and summer tourism. Let’s not forget the delicious murder that set the tone for the dastardly deeds in every book since.

 

Julia Snowden, the heroine of the series, takes a leave of absence from her venture capital job in New York City to help the family business get back on its feet financially. Instead of dealing with spreadsheets and inventory, she finds herself having to solve a murder that occurs on Morrow Island, the site of the Snowden Family Clambakes. A murder that occurs before a scheduled wedding and reception can get underway. The police shut down the crime scene – which means the Clambake – and Julia must work quickly in order to get the business open again and keep the bank at bay. And, we’re hooked.  :-)

 

The books are (mostly) set in fictional Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and Ross does a great deal of research to support each storyline – including the character of the island itself. The Morrow Island of the series was created in Ross’ mind –  not based on any one of the 4400 coastal Maine islands – but after the series was well under way, a friend sent her the link to an actual island for sale that incorporated many of the features she had invented for her stories. Check it out and see if your imaginings match the real estate photos.

 

https://www.clapboardisland.com/photos

 

 

In real life, Ross lives part of the year in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, with her family, but does not run an inn. Her mother-in-law owned the Seafarer Inn for a number of years, and when she retired, Barb and her husband bought it to use as a summer home. There are no paying guests anymore. Barb shared that she can be seen busily writing away on the big porch in good weather.

 

When asked about her writing process, Barb said:

 

“I am emphatically not a morning person, so I do the ‘business of writing’–answering emails, blog posts, etc. as I enjoy my coffee in the morning. I write in the afternoons when I'm doing first drafts and with revisions, I can pretty much work all day.”

 

Barbara contributes to two blogging groups: Maine Crime Writers and New England-based cozy writers at Wicked Cozy Authors. Take a look at a recent blog post from the Wickeds, where she chats about her thought process for Morrow Island.

 

https://wickedcozyauthors.com/2017/02/13/island-time/

 

One of the many fun parts of the series is the food mentioned in passing as lunches, dinners, or snacks. The recipes for these mouth-watering sounding dishes are included at the end of each book. Several were created by Barb’s husband, Bill Carito. I suspect that Julia’s hunky boyfriend’s wonderful cooking skills are patterned after Barb’s husband’s substantial talent in the kitchen.

 

One of my favorites is the lobster mac & cheese – recipe at the end of “Clammed Up” – which I’ve made several times. Yum, yum, YUM!

 

Barb suggests two “very Maine-y” recipes:

Lobster Deviled Eggs

BarbRossDevilledEggs

http://mainecrimewriters.com/barbs-posts/lobster-deviled-eggs

 

Pumpkin Whoopie pies, the official state snack of Maine.
BarbRossWhoopiePieshttps://wickedcozyauthors.com/about/grandma-snowdens-pumpkin-whoopie-pies/

 

With its multi-dimensional ensemble cast, perfectly wicked guest villains, wonderfully researched plot lines, surprises galore, and the always fascinating look at life on an island dependent on outside cash to keep it going, we are happy to read as many Clambake mysteries as Barbara Ross can write. Book #6 is “Stowed Away,” coming in December 2017. 

 

 

Please pass the lobster and blueberry grunt. Hold the bodies until after dinner, though. 😉


Book Cover - Clammed Up

 

 

 

 

Read review of "Clammed Up" here.                                                

 

 

 

 

Book Cover - Musseled Out

 

 

 

 

 

                        

Read review of "Musseled Out" here.

                   

              

 

 

 

  Book Cover - Fogged Inn                                

 

 

 

Read review of Agatha nominated "Fogged Inn" here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For more information about Barbara Ross, her other books, and appearances, please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com

 

 

 

 

 

“Musseled Out” by Barbara Ross

 

Book Cover - Musseled Out

Julia Snowden is back in “Musseled Out,” the third installment of Barbara Ross’ great Maine Clambake Mystery series.

 

The Maine summer tourist season is winding down and it’s time for Julia to make a decision. Should she stay around until the next season to help the family with the Snowden Clambake business or go back to her venture capital job in New York City? Her boss will only hold her spot open for so long – just until the end of the week. She’s got five days to choose between two jobs and lifestyles that could not be more different.

 

Now that the family livelihood has been saved, about the only thing that really holds Julia to Busman’s Harbor is her boyfriend, Chris. But, is that relationship really just a summer fling? Can she count on him to hang around? Is his constant disappearing act over? In a half-hearted attempt to force herself into making a decision, she looks at places to live in town. She doesn’t like the apartments she’s seen, and her boyfriend’s cabin is a little rough (translation – gutted while being rehabbed) for her taste. Plus, she has to find work in the off-season. Is that a sign?

 

The thing is, as in any good series, there has to be motivation for the out-of-town main character to hang around. We don’t want Julia to go anywhere, so Ross has to give this smart, savvy gal in “Musseled Out” an authentic reason. How about the body of a potential competitor, David Thwing, tangled up in the lines of a lobster boat she sees drifting off her beach? Julia has helped the local police successfully before, so they trust her not to be involved in Thwing’s death, but there are plenty of people (including her brother-in-law) in her circle that could have done the deed.

 

What follows is a beautifully crafted plot, with surprising twists and turns, and impeccably placed events that foil the bad guys’ plans. There is even a page-turning rescue scene that left me stunned, with the life and death struggles reading like an actual Coast Guard response.

 

Ross has developed the core characters of the series even further in “Musseled Out,” giving Gus and Mrs. Gus a storyline of their own that affects Julia and Chris in a profound way. The book not only explores what happens when key personnel in a family business are sidelined, and the serious decisions that must be made, but also how bad decisions can wreck havoc on the lives of everyone involved.

 

 

The motivations for everything that happens are as current as the latest news cycle, but if that’s not enough, there are some serious cooks in this series. Techniques are shared as part of the storyline, and I plan to try the one for fried eggs. Recipes for main dishes and desserts are included at the end of the book. I made lobster mac & cheese from “Clammed Up,” (delicious) and I can’t wait to try the pumpkin whoopee pies from “Musseled Out.”

 

Well done!

 

Read the review of “Clammed Up,” the first in the series, here.

 

For more information about Barbara Ross and her next book, “Fogged Inn,” please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com

 

 

 

“Triple Witch” by Sarah Graves

 

Book Cover - Triple Witch

“Triple Witch” is the second book in Sarah Graves’ ‘Home Repair is Homicide’ series.

 

Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree is out for a walk on the beach on an island in Maine with her best pal and sometime employee, Ellie, and they happen upon a dead man. Yup, very dead with a bullet hole in his forehead. And the dead guy just happens to be Ellie’s former boyfriend, a local small-time crook, Kenny Mumford. It seems that one body isn’t enough as a crime spree breaks out, pointing to Kenny at its center. But what is the motive?

 

Soon, Jake’s island becomes a bit too crowded when a disgruntled ex-con former millionaire shows up, making her nervous since his incarceration was due in large part to her investigations while she was living a high-powered financier’s life on Wall Street. She ruined his life and he wasn’t happy about it. But, he was not supposed to know where she now lived. Will her past endanger her present life?

 

Add in a talented, but dyslexic teenage son, a hunky caring boyfriend, an ex-husband who follows her to the island in search of redemption and Jacobia’s life takes center stage, never mind the murder(s). Juggling the men and crime investigations means that repairs to her dilapidated coastal Maine house have to wait. But, the town must have a ‘thumbs up’ review in order to keep the tourists coming from the mainland. A promise to do her part with a much-needed shutter overhaul (the house looks bald without them) might do Jacobia in. Mix it all together and you’ve got the ingredients for serious fun in Eastport in “Triple Witch.”

 

Graves has created interesting, well-developed core characters for her series and the ones who frequent the edges as the plots unfold are always quirky – worthy of murderous intent and Jake’s scrutiny. Her writing/plotting is smart, with dialogue that rings true and internal homicidal thoughts about the obnoxious ex that are soooooo funny. She restrains herself for her son’s sake, but barely.

 

In each of the sixteen books in the series, we get instruction in how to recondition/repair plumbing or other essential pieces of the dwelling. In “Triple Witch,” we learn about shutters, and porch railings and how to repair a drainpipe with finesse – real information a DIYer can use. Since Graves herself lives in an old, renovated Maine house with her musician husband and a Labrador named Evelyn, we can safely assume that the remodeling details are based on actual experience.

 

Entertaining summer read with lots of wonderful descriptions of coastal Maine life.

 

Please visit www.sarahgraves.net for information about all of the books in this great series as well as scenic photos of Eastport, Maine.

 

 

 

“Clammed Up” by Barbara Ross

 

Book Cover - Clammed Up

 

Last time I checked, murder is not on a wedding caterer’s official to-do list. They would have a tough time getting paid if bodies started popping up during the reception. But, that’s exactly what happens to Julia Snowden in Barbara Ross’ “Clammed Up.” An already cash strapped family business faces disaster when the groom’s missing best man is found hanged on the island where the clambake reception will be held – before wedding vows can even be exchanged.

 

Why is Ray Wilson dead? How did the body get there? How many people had a motive? Will the murder kill the business or bring the tourists in droves? Will the bank listen to reason? So many questions raised by Ray’s untimely demise, and Ross supplies us with multiple answers for each in this charming cozy.

 

Julia Snowden is back in Maine to save the family clambake business. Her father is dead, her brother-in-law has over-borrowed to keep the operation afloat, and Julia (with her venture capitalist background) seems like the perfect person to save the day. Except that the bank doesn’t want to hear her tale of woe; they will call in the loan of $1.5 million dollars if the business is closed for more than five days during the short Maine tourist season. The pesky murder takes up one of those days. And counting.

 

The murder, the engaged couple with lots to hide, the childhood crush who has grown into a hunky young man, an AWOL son, family accusations and betrayal, the police who seem to be dragging their heels, millions of dollars at stake, the friends who act as sounding boards when Julia can’t figure out why all this is happening – all combine to make “Clammed Up” a very satisfying mystery. The important characters are agreeably drawn – Gus, the restaurant owner, is a gem and his ‘house rules’ are hilarious. He carries the Maine anti-outsider bias to extreme by barring anyone he doesn’t know – and gets away with it.

 

Beyond the inventive storyline, “Clammed Up” introduces us to the behind-the-scenes world of a real Maine Clambake and tells us how the seafood is stored to keep it fresh and cold. We are walked through a dinner prep and service, with the entire staff working to get the food on the tables so that each guest can have the full experience of cracking the lobsters, opening the clams, and wearing the bibs, all at the same time.  Although not really a foodie book, Ross does weave food deliciously throughout the plot with a conversational tone – Julia sharing her story over a bottle of cold Sea Dog ale, chatting about the meals she has eaten along the way to solving the crime.

 

The prominent subplot of the precarious seasonal businesses at the Maine coast is handled effectively. Ross discloses the constantly present issues of bad weather and limited time available to make the yearly income, and it is clear that both play a huge role in the livelihood of both employers and employees alike. Rain keeps the tourists away and everybody suffers. B&B owners give up their own bedrooms for paying customers for the season, just so the bills can be paid for the rest of the year. A few rainy days scattered throughout the summer is bad enough, but if a hurricane hits and homes or businesses are damaged, or the economy slumps and people stay home, then disaster strikes. Not everyone has the cash reserves to come back from that, as has been demonstrated after real-life disasters up and down the East coast of this country.

 

Happily, there are mouthwatering recipes at the end of “Clammed Up.” I can’t wait to try the lobster mac & cheese and the blueberry grunt. I’m already salivating and getting my grocery list ready.

 

Barbara Ross’ thoroughly enjoyable “Clammed Up,” is an Agatha Award nominated book for Best Contemporary Novel. I’ll post the results after the votes are in this weekend.

 

Please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com for more information about Barbara Ross and her next book in the series, “Boiled Over.”