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THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN by Terry Shames: Book Review

Terry Shames has written a second novel about former police chief Samuel Craddock, and it’s just as good as her first, A Killing at Cotton Hill

Jarrett Creek, Texas, is a small town obsessed with its high school football team.  As the story opens, Samuel is on his way to the Town Cafe, where the locals meet daily, usually to discuss the fortunes of the team.  One of the regulars is Jack Harbin, a local man who was blinded and lost a leg while he was serving in the Gulf War.  Never married, Jack has been confined to a wheelchair since his return home and has been taken care of by his father, Bob.  When Samuel arrives at the Cafe, the Harbins are not there and they don’t answer their phone when Samuel calls.  Bothered by this departure from the Harbins’ regular routine, Samuel drives to their house and finds Bob lying unmoving on the grass and Jack on the sidewalk near his overturned wheelchair.

Bob is dead, apparently of a heart attack, and Jack’s fellow veterans rally around him to help him get on with his life.   When Jack’s younger brother Curtis arrives, the bad feeling between the siblings is evident.  Curtis wants Jack to sell the house and live in a veterans’ hospital, something Jack definitely doesn’t want to do.

When the preliminary autopsy results come back, they show that Bob had a large amount of Benadryl in his system.  Jack says that can’t be right, his father never  took any drug that would cause him to sleep so soundly that he wouldn’t hear if Jack called him during the night.  Curtis dismisses Jack’s statement out of hand, but it makes Samuel decide to look more closely into Bob’s death.

When Jack was in high school, his best friend was Woody Patterson, a teammate on the football team that Jack quarterbacked.  Both boys volunteered for the army upon graduation, but a previously unknown medical problem kept Woody home while Jack was sent to the Middle East where he was so grievously wounded.  After his return, Jack cut off contract with Woody; in fact, the two haven’t spoken in twenty years.  But now, after Bob’s death, Woody wants Jack to come to live with him, his wife, and their two children.  Then Jack is murdered, opening another criminal investigation.

Samuel is asked by the Texas Rangers to take over the investigation, as the Jarrett Creek’s sheriff is out of commission (read drying out) and the deputy isn’t deemed capable enough to replace him.  Samuel agrees, determined to find out the truth about Bob Harbin’s death and all that followed.

Terry Shames brings small-town Texas to life again, with its secrets and feuds going back decades.  The present-day economic crisis hasn’t improved lives or tempers either, and Samuel keeps coming across figurative locked doors and high walls in his attempt to solve the crime.  Samuel Craddock is as wise and compassionate as he was in the first novelThe Last Death of Jack Harbin is a wonderful successor to A Killing at Cotton Hill.

You can read more about Terry Shames at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.





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