Shucked Apart by Barbara Ross (A Maine Clambake Mystery) The Snowden Family Clambake Company has a beloved reputation in Busman’s Harbor, Maine. Almost as famous is the sleuthing ability of proprietor Julia Snowden. Two buckets of oyster seed worth $35,000, she wonders if somebody’s trying to mussel her out of business. Could it be a rival oyster farmer, a steamed former employee, or a snooty summer resident who objects to her unsightly oyster cages floating on the beautiful Damariscotta River? There’s also a lobsterman who’s worried the farm’s expanding lease will encroach on his territory and Andie’s ex-partner, who may come to regret their split. Before Julia can make much headway in the investigation, Andie turns up dead, stabbed by a shucking knife. Now it’s up to Julia to set a trap for a cold and clammy killer . . .
It’s almost time for The Snowden Family Clambake Company to open for the season. Manager Julie Snowden should be hiring employees and making sure everything is in place to open but her boyfriend Chris has asked her to help one of his poker-playing friends. First, Julie was to cover her surprise that his friend, Andie Greatorex is a woman, and then she has to figure out why Chris thinks she can help her. Andie is an oyster farmer and she was attacked and robbed of 2 buckets of oyster seed (spat) valued at $35,000. There are several would-be suspects but before Julia has time to do much legwork she finds Andie dead. The suspects remain the same but Julia feels time is of the essence if she is going to catch the cold-blooded killer.
I have never eaten an oyster, the sliminess just turns me off, so I never really thought about where oysters came from or were cultivated. Ms. Ross gives us a delightfully detailed account of what it means to be an oyster farmer. It was very interesting but while I am sure many love the delicacy, no, I still won’t be eating any. I like many other forms of seafood so I can handle missing out on a few oysters. Ms. Ross also shines a light on how important tourists are to these small towns.
I really enjoyed catching up with Julia before the season starts. Because of the timing, all the usual characters do not make an appearance or just make cameos but a major change does occur within these pages. A change that made this reader pretty happy. We are introduced to several new characters and the author does an excellent job making them relevant to the mystery.
The murder this time takes place in Damariscotta, not too far from Busman’s Harbor. Ms. Ross’s descriptions really make every setting come alive. I was intrigued by several places including a few homes. Life along the river was very easy to visualize.
This was another complex mystery full of red herrings and surprises. The pace started a little slow but picks up nicely as the story continues and Julia starts to eliminate suspects. Julia is a fine sleuth and tagging along with her this time was extra fun. We both figured out the real culprit at the same time and almost too late.
I love the way Barbara Ross tells a story. She draws you in with the fantastic characters you have become invested in over the series and she tangles them up in a complicated mystery that holds you tight until the final page.
This is one of my favorite series. Shucks, Shucked Apart is a captivating cozy that takes readers on a mini-vacation to the beautiful coast of Maine. I have enjoyed every trip and plan to return as soon as the next book is released.
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Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries, including the Agatha-nominated Best Contemporary Novel Clammed Up, as well as Boiled Over, Musseled Out, Fogged Inn, Iced Under and Stowed Away. Steamed Open is the latest book in this series. Her story “Nogged Off” appears in the holiday novella collection Eggnog Murder along with stories by Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis. Barbara blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors and Maine Crime Writers. In the summer, she writes on her big front porch overlooking the water in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. You can visit her website at http://www.maineclambakemysteries.com