Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross is the 4th book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel.
This 4th installment of the Maine Clambake Mystery series has been nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Novel, and deservedly so! Julia Snowden has decided to give up her career and New York City lifestyle to open a restaurant with her boyfriend Chris in her hometown of Busman's Harbor, Maine. Meant as a place for the locals to have a nice dinner out during the off-season—when all the other nice restaurants have closed—Gus’s Too is slowly finding its feet and a regular clientele. Julia is also gradually settling into the studio apartment over the restaurant that came as part of the lease, a place of her own after months of living with her family.
The Monday after Thanksgiving promises to be slow, but bad weather and a traffic accident detain the nine guests that Gus’s Too does serve until well into the night. Imagine Julia's surprise when the corpse of one of those guests, the only single man in the group, is discovered in the walk-in freezer the next morning! And if it isn't terrible enough to find a body in her building, items related to the death begin disappearing from her apartment over the course of the next few days. Scared but determined, Julia begins to investigate in order to find a murderer and stop a sinister intruder whom she fears may be one and the same.
I really enjoyed how Julia delved into Busman's Harbor's past to discover the real story behind the dead man and his connection to the four older couples who made up the other guests on that fateful November night. The interpersonal relationships between the four couples were complex, going back decades, and I found Julia’s attempt to untangle them to make for thoroughly gripping drama.
Barbara Ross’s keen eye for history and sociology make her mysteries feel authentic and alive, and it is likely a huge part of why her books keep getting nominated for awards: the debut in the series, Clammed Up, was also nominated in the Best First Novel category several years ago.
There was also an interesting twist in Julia's relationship with the police that I did not see coming, but it definitely made sense given their history over the course of the last few books. It's always nice to see that our protagonists aren't infallible, even as they continue to be highly sympathetic. I've always felt that that's a sign of authorial assurance and maturity in a mystery series.
But most relevant to this column, there were also 7 delicious recipes included! I decided to take a break from lobster to try out this dish, which Julia is served by a suspect, instead:
Deborah's Fish Tacos
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
⅓ small shallot, finely chopped
1 medium jalapeno, diced
Juice of one medium lime
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cilantro sprigs
Tacos and Toppings
8 corn tortillas, warmed
2 jalapenos, chopped
⅓ (remaining portion) shallot
2 tomatoes, chopped
Chopped cilantro sprigs
1 lime cut into wedges for squeezing
1 small radicchio, chopped
1 pound any seasonal white fish
2 Tablespoons butter
⅛ teaspoon cayenne powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon pepper
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
To make the sauce
Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix. Prepare at least 1 hour in advance and let sit in the refrigerator. (If you have leftover sauce, it makes for a great chip dip!)
To make the fish
Cook fish in butter and ½ teaspoon of the seasoning. Cook the fish until it is opaque. Squeeze lime juice from one wedge on the fish, then break up the fillet.
Serve fish on warmed corn tortillas with toppings and sauce.
I wound up using haddock for this dish, which had a nice light flavor that was beautifully enhanced by the seasoning. I could not find radicchio for some reason, but I don't think the tacos really suffered for their lack. The sauce was exceedingly delicious! I wish there had been enough leftover to dip chips in: next time, I'll consider making extra sauce just for this purpose.
These fish tacos were as satisfying as the mystery they accompanied, and I’m only sorry that there’s just one more book left in the series (at present!) for me to devour. I’ll be back to cover that two Wednesdays from now, as we’re taking a short break after serving up two delightful novels for you this week. I plan on making a hearty family favorite to go with that final entry. Do join me!
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.