For July, my selection was Clammed Up by Barbara Ross, the first book in her Maine Clambake Mysteries series. Our leading lady is Julia Snowden, who has returned home to Busman's Harbor, ME in order to help save the family business, which are seasonal clambakes held on a nearby island that's been in her mother's family for generations.
Thanks to her brother in law Sonny, The Snowden Family Clambake Company is deeply in debt, with the bank only giving them one season to turn things around. Julia, with her background in marketing, decides to expand the business via catering, starting with a wedding that gets off to a bad start quickly.
While it's bad enough that Sonny hates the whole catering idea and has fights with Etienne, the long time caretaker of the island, Julia has a nervous bride to deal with and upon the wedding party's arrival to the partly renovated island mansion on the big day, a gruesome sight greets them. The body of the best man has been hung from the front hall stairs, killing the mood rather effectively!
With the island being shut down for the investigation and the number of days allowed for closure by the bank, Julia finds that she has no choice but to find the murderer herself with or without the help of Lt. Binder, the local police detective, in order to save the business and her family.
As the suspects range from the members of the wedding to some of the local folk, including Julia's school girl crush and possible new boyfriend Chris, this sinister search for the true killer proves to be harder to crack than a stubborn lobster claw.
I did enjoy the character development within the story, with fun side characters such as Gus, the cantankerous diner owner who knows more than he lets on at times, and the setting of Busman's Harbor is engagingly described, enough that even a landlubber like me wouldn't mind checking it out!
Julia and her struggles to readjust to her family after living in New York for so long(not to mention her guilt over the death of her father, which I think some of her relatives were a tad too quick to ladle over on her there!) added a good touch of nuance that rounded the overall story line nicely.
This book got me so hooked that I picked up the second entry(Boiled Over) and finished a little after Labor Day and Ross certainly has a way with layering her story with well molded character arcs and local history, not neglecting her main mystery plot in order to do so.
I wound up checking out these books due to winning a copy of the now available on shelves holiday anthology Halloween Party Murder(which Barbara Ross, Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis all contribute stories to) and while I will be saving that book for a certain readathon, I'm glad that I got to know Barbara Ross' literary world a bit better. I may read some more of this series also as it's as cleverly comforting as a serving of lobster mac and cheese:
In August, I chose to sample a platter of Killer Crab Cakes, courtesy of Livia J. Washburn's Fresh Baked Mysteries series.
Retired school teacher Phyllis Newsom is truly a fish out of water as she agrees to run her cousin's B&B for a little time during the summer. Not only is Phyllis getting a bit of vacation fun with her boyfriend Sam, she's also able to take part in a nearby baking competition to boot.
Those plans go awry when one of the guests literally drops dead while fishing, having possibly been poisoned by the title dish. As everyone at the B&B is under suspicion , the dead man's relatives and business enemies show up to throw more chaos into the startling stew of tension simmering on the story telling stove.
Since this book starts not long after The Christmas Cookie Killer(which I read last year), keeping up with the characters was easy for me and the addition of the horrible adult children of the deceased, who turned out to be a rather wealthy man despite his every man appearance, gave off some fun Knives Out vibes to the whole story.
Washburn does have a solid sense of character comradery as Phyllis and friends work together to figure things out and over time, you really hope that certain people in the story are not guilty at all. Once again, I found this series to be as tasty a read as any plate of savory seafood treats can be:
Well, this was a fine summer of reading indeed and my autumn feast of Series-ous Reading takes me right over to Hannah Swensen's Cookie Jar bakery with Blackberry Pie Murder on the menu.
Hannah is stunned when a rainstorm drive to work results in her van hitting a man on the road, possibly causing his death. When this incident does lead to her being arrested and about to be tried, her only chance of acquittal is to find out who this man was in the first place.
So far, so good and Hannah having to deal with the legal system promises to be interesting there. Blackberry pie may be more of a summer item but to me, pie is a full on fall flavor fest along with Hannah Swensen's delicious mysteries: