Winter has come to Busman’s Harbor, Maine and to say it’s cold and snowy would be an understatement. Julia Snowden and her family run the Snowden Family Clambake Company which takes tourists on a clambake cruise to Morrow Island where everyone enjoys a real Massachusetts clambake. But a clambake is out of the question during a Maine winter so Julia and her mom, Jacqueline, are spending time together waiting for Julia’s sister, Livvie, to finally give birth. It’s been a long pregnancy.
One day, Jacqueline receives a package in the mail and when she and Julia unwrap it they find a 70 caret black diamond necklace worth $2 million dollars. Jacqueline knows that it belonged to her great grandmother but it went missing in 1920. The necklace was named “The Black Widow” and rumor had it that a maid stole it during a large party. Who possessed it all this time and why was it sent to Jacqueline?
Julia did some research and discovered that her mother had family living in Boston. After making sure that the necklace was safe in a deposit box at Busman’s Harbor, Julia drives to Boston to try to meet her relatives and figure out who sent the “Black Widow” to her mother.
In Boston she meets her newly found cousins and finds out a lot about her family’s history including cousin Hugh, who died just before Julia’s arrival. Hugh and Jacqueline were very close when they were younger but Hugh mysteriously disappeared during Jacqueline’s 21st birthday party. The police were called and there was search for Hugh but he was never found. Everyone believed that he drowned. But now it’s decades later and Julia discovers that he was alive all this time and never contacted his favorite cousin, Jacqueline.
Making things even more upsetting is that the police think that Hugh was murdered and did not die from the sickness that was killing him. But who would have murdered him? Hugh was in the house with the rest of his family and had been ill for a while and was dying so why would a family member want to murder him? Julia thinks the “Black Widow” might be a part of it all. There are too many questions that need answers and Julia plans to find those answers even though her life might be in danger.
“Iced Under” is the fifth and the best in the incredible Maine Clambake Series by Barbara Ross. I’ve been a huge fan of Ms. Ross since I read the first Maine Clambake book and I’m constantly looking for the next one in the series to be released.
Usually the books take place in Busman’s Harbor or Morrow Island where the clambakes are held but here most of the story is in Boston and not in Maine and I liked that. Don’t get me wrong, all the characters and stories that Ms. Ross has in Busman’s Harbor are wonderful but I enjoyed seeing how Julia handled herself away from the people and the area she feels most comfortable in.
I’m not sure what genre the clambake series belongs to. I’m going to say that maybe it’s a cozy but much more than a cozy. I put Susan Bernhardt and Susan McBride’s books in the same category because their books aren’t really cozies either. These three authors write a story with some meat on them, something you can sink your teeth into. These women are true authors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a cozy lover from way back. There are times I need a fun book involving a baker who turns into a private investigator in between baking donuts. And there are some wonderful cozy writers out there but there are also times when I want a good book that doesn’t rely too much on, for a better word, fluff.
Barbara Ross’s books are different. Like Ms. Bernhardt and Ms. McBride, Ms. Ross has some “meat” in her stories. You can tell that a lot of research goes into the plot lines and her characters are not two dimensional. They are very solid and well thought out. I’m not just talking about Julia, the protagonist, but every person we meet in Busman’s Harbor are real people. I appreciate all the thought that the author puts into this series. The stories are filled with thought and Ms. Ross directs her characters to exactly where she wants them to go to create a great page turner.
Barbara Ross is a true writer and storyteller and definitely should be read by all book fanatics. “Iced Under” is s gem in this wonderful series. I cannot wait until the 6th installment comes out and I hope that Ms. Ross includes some, if not all, of the new family members in future books in this series.