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Writing Crime

Q&A: Barbara Ross, SHUCKED APART
By Kathryn Gandek-Tighe
Posted: 2021-02-25T05:07:00Z

 The next in Barbara Ross's Clambake Mysteries is out. SHUCKED APART has an oyster farm at the center of this mystery once again set in Maine.


What was the a-ha moment that made you write this story?


My husband and I often take houseguests in Maine on the Damariscotta River Cruise. The cruise wends by most of the oyster farms on the Damariscotta River and includes a really interesting talk about oyster farming. It’s such a fascinating business. I started thinking about using it in one of my Maine Clambake Mysteries the first time I went on the tour.


Who is your favorite character and why?


Since this book takes place in a neighboring town instead of in Busman’s Harbor, the usual setting for the series, I got to make up a lot of new people. I really liked Andie Greatorex, the oyster farmer at the center of the story. She’s a young entrepreneur, who’s built a thriving oyster farm. I found a lot to admire about her.


Which of your skill sets were useful constructing the plot?


I’ve never thought about this before. Even though this is the ninth in the series, this particular book required quite a bit of world-building. I’m always keenly aware of how much I don’t know about a place, both its real-world-based underpinnings and its fictional boundaries, during that awful first draft. Understanding the place, and how it shapes the characters in it, is critical to understanding what they might do—and therefore the plot.


What was the most interesting thing you learned writing the book?


For this book, I also did a lot of research into the history of oyster consumption in North America and the history of oyster farming. It is way more interesting than you would think. One of the things that has stuck with me—all the oysters farmed on the east coast are the same type, though they look and taste very different depending on where and how they’re grown. Wine growers refer to terroir, the unique taste the soil, weather, elevation, and so on give to the grapes grown in a specific region and vineyard. For oysters this is called merroir—the unique taste that comes from the salinity, temperature, and nutrients in the sea.


What meal and drink do you think would pair well with your book?


Oysters, obviously! I include several recipes in the book, including my husband’s oyster stuffing that has become required at our Thanksgiving feasts. For non-oyster eaters there’s also my late mother-in-law’s recipe for banana bread and a recipe for lobster mashed potatoes. Despite what I’ve written here, the book is not all oysters, oysters, oysters.


Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries and the Jane Darrowfield Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at


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