Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Cozy Mystery Review: Steamed Open by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mystery)

Publishing date: Dec. 18, 2018

From the publisher: 

It’s summertime in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy—or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake’s supply. Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick’s decision. But which one of them was angry enough to kill?

Beachcombers, lighthouse buffs, and clammers are outraged after Frick puts up a gate in front of his newly inherited mansion. When Julia urges him to reconsider, she’s the last to see him alive—except the person who stabs him in the neck with a clam rake. As she pores through a long list of suspects, Julia meets disgruntled employees, rival heirs, and a pair of tourists determined to visit every lighthouse in America. They all have secrets, and Julia will have to work fast to expose the guilty party—or see this season’s clam harvest dry up for good.  

My thoughts: 

This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series--and just yesterday, I was trying to determine why. I read my share of cozies, especially in winter (I like the comfort factor, the small town settings). But many lose my interest after a few chapters, often because they feel predictable, or don't challenge my intellect enough (a pitfall to the cozy, alas).

Barbara Ross somehow manages to combine the small town setting with a smart mystery, plus a recurring cast with real problems and depth. That's the closest I can get to defining why this cozy series is one of my favorites.

Steamed Open takes us back to familiar Busman's Harbor, this time because one of the (somewhat reclusive and mysterious) local residents passed away (no murder), and has left her estate to a nephew who has just moved in. He restricts local access to the beach, much to the chagrin of the local clammers who rely on the location for their income. The nephew is killed at the estate just after amateur sleuth Julia Snowden has visited him, kicking the whodunit into gear.

The mystery becomes bigger and bigger, as Julia tries to uncover family history going back generations, with secrets many of Busman Harbor's residents don't want uncovered.

While some cozy series start to become repetitive after a while, I think the Maine Clambake Mystery series actually gets better. Author Barbara Ross clearly dug deep for this one (clam pun not intended), with thematic depth and more serious family history at the center of the mystery--without losing the small town charm of the cozy. Great recipes (with meaning and history) in the back, if you're so inclined.

Highly recommended. This is a cozy that elevates the genre.

If you're not familiar with the series, I highly recommend starting with the first book, Clammed Up.

**Goodreads Galley**


  1. Fleur, thanks for this review and the introduction to writer Barbara Ross. I enjoy reading such mysteries, especially when the setting is a quaint and lovely place like Busman's Harbour and where the sleuth is an amateur. Shades of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I think.

  2. I hope you give this series a try, Prashant! It's fun.


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