Maine Clambake Mystery #11
By Barbara Ross
Author’s Website: barbararossauthor(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Serving up mouthwatering shellfish, the Snowden Family Clambake has become a beloved institution in Busman’s Harbor, Maine. But when new clues rise to the surface five years after the disappearance of Julia Snowden’ s mother’s friend, the family business shifts to sleuthing . . .
Julia and her mother, Jacqueline, have come to the exclusive summer colony of Chipmunk Island to attend a memorial service for Jacqueline’s old friend Ginny, who’s been officially declared dead half a decade after she went out for her daily swim in the harbor and was never seen again. But something seems fishy at the service—especially with the ladies of the Wednesday Club. As Julia and Jacqueline begin looking into Ginny’s cold case, a present-day murder stirs the pot, and mother and daughter must dive into the deep end to get to the bottom of both mysteries . . . (From Goodreads)
It was great fun to see the latest tourist season on beautiful Morrow Island, Maine, home to the Snowden Family Clambake! Julia, her widowed mother Jacqueline, and her sister Livvie and her family welcome tour boat after tour boat to the Clambake, just off of Busman’s Harbor, Maine. Julia’s family owns the island, passed down through generations of her mother’s family. Her parents began this popular summer destination many years ago. A while after Julia’s father passed away, she came home to manage the business. She has also helped solve several intriguing, complex murders.
Tourist season is underway when Julia’s mother is called to the nearby, exclusive Chipmunk Island for a memorial service for Ginny, her high school best friend. Life changes over several decades reduced their communication to Christmas cards and occasional emails. Ginny never married, taught in Portland during the school year, and was on Chipmunk Island during the summer.
One of Ginny’s daily routines was swimming to Dinkum’s Light and back. Many people told her she shouldn’t do it because of the boat traffic and distance, but it was important to her. One day five years earlier, she went for her swim and never returned. The State of Maine had just declared Ginny legally dead.
Jacqueline asked Julia to go with her to the memorial. She had spent several happy summers visiting Ginny, and was struggling with going back. The memorial was at Ginny’s family home on the island. Jacqueline was the only one invited from off the island as she had been a part of the teens Ginny was friends with and who now comprised the Wednesday Club.
Julia’s mother still felt guilty that Ginny had sent Jacqueline an email, wanting to meet with her and discuss something. It was one of Jacqueline’s first summers back at the Clambake after her husband died, and she had to have enough staff to cover for her before seeing her old friend. Before she could respond to Ginny, she disappeared and was presumed drowned. At the memorial, she saw things in Ginny’s home that concerned her, and wanted Julia to learn what she could about the investigation.
Julia found out the scope of the police investigation; their old friend and neighbor, Jamie, a police officer in Busman’s Harbor, told her what was done. He also pulled a handful of other missing, suspected drowned, cases, of which there were very few, for comparison. As they never found a body, Jacqueline wondered if her death was not an accident.
When Julia went to Ginny’s house, she had no problem gaining entry since nobody on the island locked their doors. Julia was upstairs in Ginny’s home when she heard the Wednesday Club ladies, who she had met at the memorial, slip into the house, and she went down to greet them.
The ladies’ concern was whether Ginny, who had no family left, had a will. If not, the state would take the house, sell it, or put it to other use. Chipmunk Island residents had such exclusive standards, they didn’t want just anyone to live there. Very rarely was a home on the market. If one became available, a family member or friend of current homeowners would get first dibs. They told Julia to help them look for a will, as there was much furniture to move.
The will they found had been prepared a week before her death. Ginny named Jacqueline her personal representative, or executor. Julia and her mom could learn what was going on with Ginny in her final days, hoping to find her journal when sorting her home here and her condo in Portland. Then someone who knew Ginny was murdered, and things got complicated.
I enjoyed most of the characters, including the state police detectives who have been there for other investigations. Folks central to the story were well defined. Those who will probably not be in another novel were described appropriately. I like Julia the best, and wish we could have gotten to know Ginny, as it sounded as if she didn’t have the snobby attitude most of the other Club ladies – except Laura – did. I liked Laura, who, as an adult, was best friends with Ginny.
This very intriguing mystery was executed so well! It was quite a challenge to identify the killer(s) and the motive. Plot twists helped weed the red herrings from the suspect list. Julia seems more mature and thoughtful than many amateur sleuths. I am looking forward to seeing her new off-season position, as she is so excited about it. The ending was very satisfying in every area, including the major decision Jacqueline was faced with, and happy relationship changes. I highly recommend this mystery and series!