Fresh Meat: Boiled Over by Barbara Ross

Boiled Over by Barbara Ross is the second cozy installment in the Maine Clambake mystery series featuring Julia Snowden, former New York City girl who has returned to Busman’s Harbor, Maine, to help her family with their struggling clambake (Available May 6).

I read a lot of cozies because I love to get to know great characters who are regular people who do everyday things. Well, until they happen to come across a dead body. For me, nothing beats an amateur sleuth who gets tangled up in a small town mystery. Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake series provides both great characters and a small town mystery that is intricate enough to keep even the best armchair detective guessing.

Julia Snowden joins the planning committee for Busman’s Harbor Founders Weekend. Her family’s clambake provides a new invention for the event: the Claminator. The morning of the festivities, things don’t quite go as planned and they find a burned foot sticking out of the Claminator.

Julia, having already been involved in one murder that took place in town since she arrived, is now caught up in another.

A siren brup-brup-brupped as the ambulance inched its way through the crowd.

“And the…thing?” I couldn’t bring myself to say foot….or to look. I pointed vaguely in the direction of the charred body part.

“I have to secure the scene,” Jamie said almost apologetically.

“Do whatever you have to,” I reassured him.

When I stepped back out of his way, I became aware of a voice keening above the hubbub of the crowd. Bunnie Getts stood behind the microphone on the little stage, wailing. Jamie noticed her, too. Gesturing to his partner to stay with the Claminator, Jamie moved toward the stage as quickly as the crown allowed. I was right behind him.

It’s over, over, over!” Bunnie howled. “All my hard work. Ruined!”

“Ms. Getts, maybe if you could—“

But Bunnie had spotted me coming toward the stage. “You!” she shouted, pointing dramatically. “This is your fault!”

Heads spun in my direction.

When the body is found, Cabe, the kid Julia hired to help out at the clambake, runs away. Several townspeople, as well as the police, seem to think this is a sign of guilt. Only Julia and her family think that Cabe is innocent and Julia sets out to prove it. Julia feels she owes Cabe, since he once saved her life.

It was still empty when I took the turn onto Main Street and an SUV, big and black, driving erratically with its headlights off, jumped the curb and barreled toward me. My brain couldn’t seem to process what I saw. I froze.

Two hands grabbed my upper arms and jerked me backwards into the protected doorway of an art gallery. The car roared by, missing me by inches. Brakes squealed and I heard the driver over-correct, then correct again. By the time I looked up, the car was already beyond the short portion of Main Street that had streetlights. It was a dark blur headed out of town.

I turned and threw my arms around my rescuer, Cabe. He to, was pale and trembling.

“Thank you, thank you. If you hadn’t been here….” I let him go.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

I breathed in deep and blew out slowly. “Yes, I’m fine. Just shaken up. You?”

He smiled. “Same.”

The characters were well drawn and memorable, each as individual as a real person, with as many quirks as you would expect in a small seaside town (or any town for that matter). It wasn’t surprising to find out that there is a difference between people who are from Busman’s Harbor and those who are “From Away”.

As in any series, you expect to see the characters grow. Even though this is the first book I’ve read in this series, I watched Julia grow as a person just on these pages. She struggles with belonging in a place where she feels like she is “From Away”. She is in a relationship, but wondering where it could possibly lead since she plans to return to her life in New York City after the summer is over. I secretly suspect she’ll stay. I mean, it is a series.

In addition to great characters, I really enjoyed the mystery part of the story. Ross really wove a tangled web of past relationships and possible secret identities into the plot. Events that took place years ago come back to haunt the present day and you are in constant wonder of who was wrapped up in it then, and who is who now. I have to admit that at one point, about two-thirds of the way through, I figured something out. I was suddenly all proud of myself and thought I had the whole thing wrapped up. Sorry Barbara Ross, I figured it out before the end. About 10 pages later, the author revealed just what I had figured out. I was correct, but I was very far from having anything figured out, the information was about to be revealed anyway. Once I got to the end, I was as surprised as ever. I’d barely even scratched the surface.

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Kerry Hammond has been an avid mystery reader ever since she discovered Nancy Drew at the age of 8. She enjoys all types of stories, from thrillers to cozies to historical mysteries.

Read all posts by Kerry Hammond for Criminal Element.

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