Clammed Up ( A Maine Clambake Mystery #1) by Barbara Ross. Published by Kensington in 2013. 378 pages. I read this book because of the 2018 Summer Reading Challenge from GoodReads. For the month of July, there were two challenges that this book fit in; Get Your Grill On: Read a book that features summer recipes or outdoor summer activities and Backyard BBQ: Read a book that features a family reuniting or hanging out for the summer.
Julia Snowden returns to her Maine hometown to help save the failing family business. Her brother-in-law has had a hard time handling things and now they are behind in their payments, with their family’s land and home, as well as the future of their authentic clambake business, on the line. If they can’t make money soon, it’s good bye to all of the above. Julia is a business whiz and it takes her no time at all to come up with a sound plan to get the money the family needs to save the clambake. Unfortunately, things don’t go her way when, on the clambake’s opening day of the season, a dead body is found on the Snowden Clambake property. Julia has no choice but to watch the police come in and close down the clambake while they try to figure out what happened. Everything is on the line and Julia feels the pressure to keep her family afloat. Time is about to run out for the Snowden family, unless Julia can figure out what happened.
Ok. So, here’s the thing…. this book has plenty of both pros and cons. I enjoyed it, and it was fun, but it had it’s share of problems as well. It was a pretty balanced book in that aspect, landing it squarely right in the middle for rating it. Or what I like to call “the neutral zone”. We’ll start with the bad first.
- Julia, the main character, was kind of a bitch. Not in the confrontational, aggressive way, but more in the heartless, kinda selfish sort of way. She whines about how her life was jerked out from under her because she had to come take care of the family business, not even considering about how her family has been working their ass off trying to care for the family business while she was off in NYC. Then she only cares about her flesh and blood family members. Friends who have been with the family for so long they are basically family, Julia just brushes off their feelings about her father’s death and the problems with the family clambake. She is also treats her childhood friend like crap, but then expects his help. Not a great friend.
- The plot set up was kind of a cliched formula that we have seen a lot. Woman has to leave her life behind in a wonderful city and has to move back to her small hometown and help save a failing business, with a few hot guys that may or may not like her thrown in. It felt similar to other cozy mysteries I’ve read before.
- It was kinda weird who the killer turned out to be. Very out of left field. Normally there are clues along the story to help us, the reader, figure out who did it. There were times when the killer showed signs of being off, but if they were clues to that person being the killer, it was way too subtle. It just felt odd and out of place.
- And how did the cops NOT know who the killer was and what happened??? I mean, first of all, DNA. The killer and accomplice didn’t sound like they were wearing gloves or wiping down finger prints. Plus, both of those people were interviewed many, many times. I find it hard to believe that the killer didn’t show signs of being crackers when under the pressure of being interviewed so much.
Aaaand now the good…
- Clammed Up had a handful of cons, but, I actually found it entertaining. While the story was very formulaic, I had a fun time watching what happened next and watching all the puzzle pieces fit together.
- The main character was a bitch, but she actually showed some growth at the end of book. She realized that she did things wrong and actually apologized to people for her mistakes. She also realized that she had ignored other peoples feelings. That is pretty important because in a lot of stories, especially the cozy genre, you have a character who does stupid stuff and never realizes how stupid they acted and never apologizes for being a jackass. She also realized that she is not good at friendships and that she really didn’t have any friends (though, she never did apologize to her childhood friend for being craptastic to him.)
- The story and the killer were hard to predict. It definitely kept me guessing all the way to the end of the story.
- Location, location, location! You get a nice view of small town Maine coastal life. You get to hear all about their wonderful food as well! In the end of the book you get a couple of very yummy looking Maine recipes.
The cons are strong in this one, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a little bit fun. Maybe it was because it was the start of a series? Not sure. I wouldn’t say no to reading the next book in the series to see if it holds up a little bit better or not. Clammed Up is not a perfect book, but it didn’t totally make me want to beat my head against the wall either. So read it, knowing that it’s not going to be the most air-tight plot ever and you should be ok.