A Real Maine Clambake by Barbara Ross

People often ask about the inspiration for novels and for me it was when fellow Kensington author Lea Wait (Twisted Threads, Threads of Evidence, Thread and Gone) told me her daughter celebrated her wedding reception on a private island where a family ran a Maine clambake. Lea and I are neighbors in Maine (where neighbors means she lives at the other end of the peninsula where I live) and we love to get together to talk books, writing and lobster.

kensingtoncabbageislandsignLea’s story marinated for a while before I wrote the first Maine Clambake Mystery, Clammed Up (which takes place, not surprisingly at a wedding). At that point, I’d never been to the real Cabbage Island Clambake where Lea’s daughter’s wedding reception had been held. I wrote the early drafts of Clammed Up over most of a snowy New England winter when the clambake was shut down for the season. I actually think that was a good thing, because it ensured that everything about the Snowden Family Clambake—the family, the island, the tourists—came out of my imagination.

Everything, that is, except the meal. A Maine Clambake is a ritual and, with minor variations, the meal is always the same: New England clam chowder, followed by twin lobsters, steamed clams called steamers, a potato, an onion, an ear of corn, and something with blueberries in it for dessert. The main part of the meal is cooked over a hardwood fire and is covered with rockweed (a North Atlantic form of seaweed) and sailcloth tarps, which are wet with sea water. In those early winter days, I had fun researching the origins of the clambake, which came to the European settlers from Native Americans, but then faded from mainstream memory only to return again after the Civil War.

benniealicekensingtonBy June of that year, my husband and I anxiously boarded the Bennie Alice to take us on the first trip of the year to Cabbage Island. I pestered the Moore family, who live on the island and run the clambake, with my many questions. “Where do you store the lobsters?” “How does the hardwood get to the island?” “How many people work here and what do they do?” “If you had a real problem, who would you call—the local police? the Maine Marine patrol? The Coast Guard?”

Happy and satisfied, we returned that evening to our home in Boothbay Harbor. I had what I needed to make my island and my clambake feel authentic.

The Moores have continued to be supportive of the books and I know for certain some Maine Clambake fans have found their way to Cabbage Island. “Don’t worry, I haven’t killed too many people on the island,” I joked with one of the brothers last time I was there. “As long as you don’t kill me,” he answered.

An autumn chill has settled over Busman’s Harbor, Maine, but Julia Snowden is warming up the town by offering lobster stew at the local diner. When her landlord discovers a dead body in the walk-in refrigerator, Julia must figure out who ordered up a side of murder.

Nothing’s colder than a corpse–especially one stashed inside a sub-zero fridge. The victim spent his last night on earth dining at the restaurant bar, so naturally Julia finds herself at the center of the ensuing investigation. Lost in the November fog, however, is who’d want to kill the unidentified stranger–and why. It might have something to do with a suspicious group of retirees and a decades-old tragedy to which they’re all connected. One thing’s for sure: Julia’s going to make solving this mystery her early bird special…

Includes Traditional Maine Clambake Recipes!

Praise for Clammed Up

“Readers can enjoy both figuring out the mystery and taking an armchair visit to coastal Maine.” —Library Journal

BarbaraRossBarbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries, Clammed Up, Boiled Over, Musseled Out and Fogged Inn. Clammed Up was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and was a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. Barbara blogs with a wonderful group of Maine mystery authors at Maine Crime Writers and with a group of writers of New England-based cozy mysteries at Wicked Cozy Authors. She loves to hear from readers. You can find her at her website at www.maineclambakemysteries.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/barbaraannross, on Twitter @barbross, or on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/barbaraannross.