HIDDEN BENEATH: A MAINE CLAMBAKE MYSTERY by Barbara Ross; Kensington Publishing, 2023; 265 pages, $8.99; ISBN 978-1-4967-3571-3.


Chipmunk Island is an exclusive offshore enclave of rich people in big houses — no roads, no cars, no rentals, and island rules that ensure unwashed tourists are not welcome. And if somebody dies on Chipmunk Island the rich folks really clam up, no scandal and no publicity until it’s a murder.

“Hidden Beneath” is another excellent “cozy” mystery by Portland author Barbara Ross, the 11th book in her Maine Clambake Mystery series featuring businesswoman Julia Snowden. Ross won the prestigious Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction, so she clearly knows how to write clever, intricate mysteries, and this latest will not disappoint.

Ginny Merrill, a wealthy island woman, went for her daily swim in the harbor, but she never returned. Now five years later, officially declared dead, Ginny will be remembered at a curious memorial service held by the ladies of the island’s Wednesday Club. Julia and her mother Jacqueline are invited and attend, but they wonder why. The answer becomes more puzzling when Ginny’s missing will is discovered and its odd conditions are revealed.

Folks on Chipmunk Island are more than a bit nervous now, especially when Julia (at her mother’s request) starts poking around into Ginny’s disappearance and its possible connection to several other suspicious “accidents” years before. Colorful painted wall murals in Ginny’s old house, a set of diaries, and a list of cryptic clues guide Julia to a secret island location that only adds to her suspicion and danger, and to a surprise murder.

Julia and her mother are both deeply involved in the investigation of bad deeds, cover up, menacing secrets, and the deadly peril right next to them (that they cannot see). The result is a satisfying murder mystery of cerebral challenge and taut conclusion.


BODY OF WATER by Daniel J. Boyne; Lyons Press, 2023; 204 pages, $27.95; ISBN 978-1-4930-7121-0.


Street crime in Boston may be a problem, but if you go rowing on the Charles River near Harvard, watch out! There is a lot more in the river than just weeds and water.

“Body of Water” is the debut mystery novel by Daniel Boyne, best-selling and award-winning author of four books on rowing, including the acclaimed “The Red Rose Crew.” Rowing is in his blood, so his first novel takes place in the rarified, genteel air of competitive and recreational rowing on the Charles, where sportsmanship gives way to murder.

Boyne introduces two Massachusetts State Police detectives, young Detective Sergeant Sean Delaney, and his much younger partner, Detective Marshall McDonald: one is smart, eager and thoughtful, the other is inexperienced, mouthy and a bit of a dope. A nighttime rower on the Charles has discovered a dead body floating in the river, and the cops have to determine if it was an accident, suicide or homicide. The victim is an arrogant Harvard alum, hated by the university rowing community. His rich, smarmy father screams murder, points out an obvious suspect, and demands an immediate arrest.

The investigation is slow, plodding through tips, clues, motives, alibis and some odd behavior, but the detectives begin to see some clear threads connecting people and events, including a second murder, a disgraced former Harvard rowing coach, a discontented trophy wife, a couple of Harvard slackers with an ax to grind, and a university cop who knows too much. And then surprisingly, Delaney and his cop boss engineer a blatantly illegal search to find evidence.

This is a fun mystery, but the cop-driven illegal search and an important side-plot left unresolved are troubling. One is a serious breach of the law, the other involves grim culpability. Readers will notice.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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