MUSSELED OUT by Barbara Ross
April 28, 2015
Number 3 of the Maine Clambake series
Kensington (320 pages)
Julia Snowden can’t catch a break. She’s worked hard to get the Snowden Family Clambake back in the black, but their financial security won’t last long if “Mussel King” David Thwing successfully expands his empire to include Busman’s Harbor. At first, Julia’s happy to let her bullish brother-in-law battle Thwing on the Snowdens’ behalf, but then the Mussel King turns up dead, Sonny’s alibi proves full of holes, and Julia’s forced to wonder if her family is about to lose more than just their livelihood.
Musseled Out, the third of Barbara Ross’ stellar Maine Clambake Mysteries, is a craftily plotted, brilliantly paced tale that gives the lie to the notion that all small-town crime is cozy. Addiction, greed, ambition, murder – Musseled Out has them all, plus a bonus lesson in lobstering and a turf war, to boot.
Julia’s a relatable heroine; uncertain about her future, suffering from commitment issues, and perennially torn between head and heart, she loves but also feels burdened by her family. Sexy, mysterious, and wildly supportive, Chris Durand continues to be the love interest of readers’ dreams. And while curmudgeonly restaurant owner Gus has always been my favorite denizen of Busman’s Harbor, Ross exposes his secret marshmallow core in this book, making me love him all the more. Unlike most traditional mysteries set in my beloved Pine Tree State, Ross’ latest paints an authentic picture of working-class Maine. Her characters feel real, as do the relationships they share, the struggles they face, and the crimes they commit.
Ross is a wonderfully efficient storyteller; every single scene forwards plot and ratchets tension. The book’s big showdown is thrilling, the central mystery’s solution is smart, and the ending manages to satisfy while still leaving readers hungry for more. I devoured Musseled Out in a single greedy sitting, and I can’t wait to see what Ross cooks up for Julia’s next adventure.
Katrina Niidas Holm