by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of the latest Maine Clambake Mystery by Barbara Ross along with an interesting interview with Barbara. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Muddled Through: A Maine Clambake Mystery By Barbara Ross
Review by Sandra Murphy
Julia Snowden broke up with her boyfriend Chris, and now, she’s lost her apartment because her landlord says he needs it for a relative. Julia’s back home, in her teenage bedroom, and wondering what’s next. She’s always busy during tourist season since she manages the family business, Snowden Family Clambakes. It’s the rest of the year that’s lacking.
In a “watch what you wish for” situation, Julia’s caught up in mayhem and murder. Her sister works at Lupine Design as a potter. The store sells vases, dinnerware, and artwork. Someone has taken offense. A break-in reveals every piece of pottery and ceramics smashed to pieces.
Zoey, Lupine’s owner, is in favor of turning four blocks of Main Street into a pedestrian mall on weekend nights to accommodate tourists and reduce parking problems. Store owners and residents are strongly in favor or strongly opposed. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.
Are feelings running high enough to include murder? Zoey is a likely suspect since she knew the victim and they were often at odds. Mainers are notorious for hating change, but would someone go as far as murder over blocking off streets? It appears so.
This is book ten in the series. Julia has been in a holding pattern since her breakup and living with her mother brings her situation into clear focus. The trouble is, she’s not sure what she wants. Her sister, married right out of school and a mom, found she loves being a potter. Is there change in her future? There’s the hint of a nice twist at the end which means I’m really looking forward to book eleven.
Recipes are shared at the back of the book—refrigerator soup for non-cooks, butterscotch cookies, lobster stew, cardamom pecan pie, mushroom soup, and Pine Tree State of Mind cocktail with a notation of where to buy two of the less common ingredients.
Interview with Barbara Ross:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Barbara: I’ve always written. I started getting serious about it in 1994.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
Barbara: My first mystery novel, The Death of an Ambitious Woman, came out in 2010. In The Death of an Ambitious Woman, the murder of one ambitious woman forces another to decide what price she is willing to pay for success. It’s about a female acting police chief in a large suburban city, who, at great personal and professional peril, investigates the apparently accidental motor vehicle death of a female partner in an investment company.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
Barbara: I have always written crime stories, though in many different lengths – short stories, novellas, and novels.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Barbara: The Maine Clambake Mysteries are set in the fictional town of Busman’s Harbor, Maine, a place that bears an uncanny resemblance to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, where my mother-in-law ran a bed and breakfast inn for many years. I love coastal Maine and am happy to do any research there.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
Barbara: I think to entertain books must engage readers, and to engage readers, they must be getting something deeper from the work. So, for me, it’s all one thing.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?
Barbara: It depends. When I’m writing a first draft, I’m on a schedule.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
Barbara: From 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon until 6:00 or 7:00.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Barbara: I don’t outline but I do need to turn in a synopsis to my editor before I start writing. Because of that I know the big picture of the story. Before I begin, I create scene cards in Scrivener as far as I know them, but it always changes in the writing.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Barbara: Given that I finished my first manuscript in 1996 and that book got published in 2010, the answer is yes! I got offers from multiple agents quickly, but then the one I went with couldn’t sell the book. Life got complicated with work and family. Years later, I hauled that manuscript out of the drawer. I was amazed at how terrible it was. I say I “rototilled it” and sent it back out again. That time it worked.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Barbara: I learned the most about rejection when I was one of the editors of the Best New England Crime Stories, an annual anthology of crime short stories. We could have easily published more than half the stories we rejected. They just didn’t fit in to the particular mix of work we were trying to put together that year. Being rejected really, truly doesn’t mean your work is terrible, or unpublishable.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Barbara: I always feel overwhelmed when people travel far distances to meet me, as though I cannot possibly be scintillating and grateful enough to meet their expectations. But I am very, very grateful.
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
Barbara: I just handed in Maine Clambake #11. I have one more book and one more novella under contract, and then I’ll figure it out.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
Barbara: P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Kate Atkinson, Tana French, Ann Cleeves, Louise Penny, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Deborah Crombie, Elizabeth George, and on and on.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Barbara: It depends on the book. For the latest, Muddled Through, I learned about making and selling pottery, mud season in Maine, the female photographers of National Geographic, Miss Rumphius and lupines, and New England-style town meetings.
KRL: What do you like to read?
Barbara: Traditional mysteries, preferably series.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
Barbara: I am currently obsessed with Outlander, the show and the books.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Barbara: Keep at it. Find your support system. Join Sisters in Crime.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Barbara: You know those systems you and your kids used to learn remotely in 2020-2021? I was present at the birth, co-founder of one of the original companies that defined the space.
KRL: How cool! Do you have any pets?
Barbara: I had a mutt growing up and a cat who lived next door but decided she’d rather live with us. I got a cat in college who lasted until my kids were pre-schoolers, though she never accepted my husband. While bringing up my kids we had a Golden Retriever and then a Cocker Spaniel, both rescues. Now my husband and I travel too much to have a pet.
To enter to win a copy of Muddled Through, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “muddled,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 30, 2022. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.
You can use this link to purchase the book from Amazon or click here. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.