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**

Friday, November 16, 2018

BookBoy, YALit 101 And Other Happenings (Nov./Dec. News)

It’s almost Thanksgiving! This is not good, because I’m actually still surprised that it’s 2018… It’ll take me at least until March next year, again, to get the year right on anything I fill out.

That said, I’ve had a pretty good 2018 so far. Lots of school and Skype visits and conference talks, and I got to talk to lots of kids, which is my favorite part of the job. I’ve also been writing a lot: a new MG mystery, a few short stories, and now I’m outlining a new, ambitious YA that’s close to my heart. More about that in 2019 (gasp! See how hard this is going to be?) 

Mystery TV

We like our TV here at the Bradley house, mostly from Netflix and Prime anymore, but there are still a few network shows we watch. Surprisingly good mystery this fall: The Rookie, with Nathan Fillion in it. I was expecting a show like Castle, but this one is more complex than that, with a few darker moments. I like it, and so does my better half, which doesn’t happen often.

            Along with the rest of America (and the world, it seems), we also watched The House on Haunted Hill—very cool and spooky, but with an ending that didn’t quite fit. Still, highly recommended.

Mystery Books

I’ve been reading up a storm—no surprise to you fellow writers, I’m sure. During my school visits, I often tell kids that I read about ten times more than I write, which is no exaggeration. 
Of note this fall (titles for adults this time): Fugitive Red by Jason Starr (juicy, like watching a very bad train wreck, but you can’t look away), and Elevation by Stephen King. I’ve been enamored by the novella lately, and Mr. King masters this length beautifully (despite his usual inclination to write those giant tombs).

Where You Can Find Me

The year is almost over, but I still have a few more events on the calendar:

Nov 25th: BookBoy, Bookbar’s father-son book club. I'll be talking about Double Vision, of course. If you are a father or a son, come over to Denver’s Bookbar. Or if you’re not, come anyway: this store and the little pocket neighborhood around it is a must-visit. They have wine, and books. It’s brilliant marketing to people like me, plus the staff are really great at recommending books.

Dec. 10th-24th: YALit 101. If you’re like me and would rather stay away from the shops this December, join me for a YALit 101: Writing For Teens workshop over at Savvy Authors. It’s all online, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. You bring the hot beverage and wear your best comfortable clothing, I’ll tell you need to know about writing YA. It’ll be the perfect thing to do in December.

I hope you’re having a great last few weeks of 2018, and I hope to catch up with you again in 2019. Until then… Do you have any book or TV recommendations to share?

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