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Taft Midway Driller - Taft, CA
  • Book Notes: ‘Boiled Over’ spins a well-crafted Maine mystery

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  • “Boiled Over: The Maine Clambake Mystery Series” by Barbara Ross. Kensington Books, New York, 2014. Paperback. $7.99.
    The carefully planned, high-stakes Founder’s Day in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, looks like it’s going to be a fabulous success for the local businesses. The weather is perfect, the Claminator, a clever contraption built to steam 300 lobster dinners, is ready to go, and the tourist buses are rolling in on cue. Julia Snowden, one of the Founder’s Day committee members with a stake in the short tourist season, is just about to breathe a sigh of relief when she sees it — a charred foot sticking out of the wood fire underneath the Claminator.
    Barbara Ross does a great job evoking the spirit and feel of coastal Maine in “Boiled Over.” She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and serves as one of the publishers of the Level Best short crime fiction series, set in New England, that comes out each fall.
    Julia, Ross’s nicely wrought protagonist, is an ever-curious, pleasantly willful natural-born detective. Julie is in her early 30s and was raised in Busman’s Harbor though she doesn’t feel like she belongs. After college, she left to work in finance in New York City. When the recession threatened to bankrupt her family’s longtime lobster bake business, she returns home to temporarily apply her skills to the Snowden Family Clambake.
    It doesn’t take long to figure out that the unfortunate human cinder is Stevie Noyes. Noyes runs Camp Gloosap, an RV park outside of town. He, too, serves on the Founder’s Day planning committee but he is nowhere to be seen during the early morning setup. Who would guess that beneath his likeable and friendly veneer lurks disturbing secrets? T.V. Noyes, his real name, was the man who swindled many out of their savings in a penny stock scam. After serving 10 years in prison, he re-invented himself in Busman’s Harbor. But he has a cluttered past that can’t help but erupt. Among the detritus of his earlier life are two sons, an ex-mistress and a slew of angry victims.
    With scant circumstantial evidence, the police target Cabe, the young and earnest new hire at Snowden Family Clambake. They see him as the likely murderer. Since this is the second in Ross’s Clambake Mystery Series, the police already know Julia from a previous murder that she helped them solve. Perhaps because of smarting pride, they are somewhat duplicitous when it comes to dealing with her.
    The two state police detectives seem determined to find and charge Cabe despite Julia’s conviction that Cabe is simply a hardworking young man trying to scratch out a living. Cabe, we learn, is Noyes’s son conceived out of wedlock and put up for adoption. Though he could have motive, Julia isn’t convinced. He once saved her life by pushing her out of the way of an erratic driver. That driver, we learn later, bears watching.
    Page 2 of 2 - People with pasts linked to T.V. Noyes coincidentally converge in Busman’s Harbor on this particular August weekend. Among those we suspect are T.V. Noyes’ ex-lover, both of his sons and the widow of one of the men he swindled. The husband, deeply depressed after losing everything, jumped off the Empire State Building. Each character finds his or her way to Busman’s Harbor at this fateful moment in time. Who among them knows that Stevie Noyes was once T.V. Noyes? And who, two decades later, still has the rage to stab Noyes 17 times before stuffing him between the logs in the Claminator?
    Despite the potentially lurid nature of the crime — heating up the town’s clambake with a human body — this mystery is lots of fun, quite cleverly plotted and loaded with interesting history about everything from the Native Americans who, for generations, have picked blueberries by hand in Maine to the early settling of the Maine seacoast. This quick, friendly read tucks nicely into a beach bag. Before you pack the picnic lunch, however, you would do well to turn to the back of the book for some very appetizing recipes. One of Livvie’s Lobster Salad rolls would go perfectly with “Boiled Over.”
    ——
    Rae Padilla Francoeur’s memoir, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” is available online or in some bookstores. Write her at rae.francoeur@verizon.net. Read her blog at /www.freefallrae.blogspot.com/ or follow her @RaeAF.

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