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Book Author: Terry Shames

DEAD BROKE IN JARRETT CREEK by Terry Shames: Book Review

Things are not going well in Jarrett Creek, Texas.  The small town was hard hit by the 2008 economic recession and hasn’t recovered.  Things are so bad, in fact, that the town’s two full-time police officers have been let go due to budgetary concerns, and that brings Samuel Craddock back to resume his former position as chief of police. 

The reason that newly elected mayor Rusty Reinhardt asks Samuel to take the job is that Samuel has volunteered to work for a token dollar a year until the town’s finances improve and a new chief can be hired or until the current chief returns from his stint in rehab.  

So Samuel is approved as temporary chief, and the next morning he’s confronted by a murder.  One of the men at the meeting to discuss the town’s finances and approve Samuel’s “rehiring” has been shot to death.

Gary Dellmore was alive when the meeting at the American Legion Hall broke up the previous night, but no one can remember seeing him leave the building.  Gary had joined his father’s bank several years earlier and was apparently being groomed to be vice president, but the more deeply Samuel delves into the victim’s past and current behavior, the more people he finds who have reason to want Gary dead.

The murder victim was known around town as a man who liked women, and his marriage appears to have been a troubled one.  In addition, townspeople have been leaving the Dellmore family bank because Gary was unprofessionally free with private information about their bank accounts.  And he seemed to be doing more than simply flirting with one of the teenagers who worked with him, the mayor’s daughter.

Some of the characters in Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek are familiar to readers of the two previous books in the series.  There’s Loretta, Samuel’s good-hearted but gossipy neighbor; Jenny, an attorney who is Samuel’s confidante; and police chief Rodell Skinner, who has a major problem with alcohol.

And there are new characters as well:  Barbara Dellmore, the not-very-grieving widow; Alan Dellmore, the bank’s president and father of the victim, who admits to Samuel that there had been tension between himself and his son; and Cookie Travers, Alan’s assistant, who is willing to tell Samuel all about Gary’s indiscretions at the bank, personal and business.

Samuel Craddock reminds me of Walter Longmire, the fictional sheriff I greatly admire.  Maybe I’m partial to lawmen in the West, but there seems to be something very down-to-earth and homey about them.  Samuel is a man definitely past middle age, although we’re not told how old he is.  He’s a widower with no children, has lived all his life in Jarrett Creek, and its citizens and the town itself are very important to him.

All the usual virtues and vices are present in this small town:  kindness, charity, greed, and gossip.  Jarrett Creek sounds pretty much like Everytown to me.

Terry Shames has a flair for making her Texas townspeople real and vibrant.  Each book in the series has been an enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to the next one. 

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

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






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.





A KILLING AT COTTON HILL by Terry Shames: Book Review

I’m finding that books about small-town sheriffs, both working and retired, are a delight to read.  There are many, both male and female, but three of my favorites are William Kent Kreuger’s Cork O’Connor series, Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series, and Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series (all reviewed on this blog).   Now I’ve met Samuel Craddock, retired sheriff of Jarrett Creek, Texas, and he’s definitely been added to my favorites list.

Jarrett Creek is like most small towns, a place where everyone knows everyone else.   When Samuel finds out that an old friend, Dora Mae Parjeter, was found murdered, he has an overwhelming feeling of guilt as well as sadness at the loss.  The sadness is obvious, the guilt less so.  But the night before Dora Mae’s death she called him to say she thought someone was sitting in a car outside her house, watching her; because she had called Samuel previously with similar statements, he told her to call him in the morning if she still was worried.  Unfortunately, this time there was obviously something to be worried about.

Samuel’s replacement as sheriff is Rodell Skinner, an alcoholic who was appointed to the office by his cousin, the mayor.  Knowing Rodell’s incompetence and desire for a quick and easy solution to any crime, Samuel goes to Dora Mae’s farm and finds that her grandson, Greg, is Rodell’s main suspect.

It appears that Greg and his grandmother had an argument a few days before the murder, so it’s easy for the new sheriff to make a case against Greg.  Samuel promises Greg he’ll get him out of jail the next morning, and Samuel vows to himself to investigate the case thoroughly.

Greg is one of Dora Mae’s two living descendants.  Greg’s mother, who was Dora Mae’s daughter, and his father were killed in an automobile accident when Greg was a child, and he came to live with his grandmother.  Dora Mae’s other daughter, Caroline, was known as the “wild one” and left home as a teenager, some twenty years earlier.  Now Samuel finds information that leads him to believe that Caroline has returned to Texas and made contact with her mother, but Samuel is having no luck tracking Caroline down.

Going over Dora Mae’s accounts, Samuel is stunned to realize how close to the bone she had been living.  Her very talented grandson wanted to leave the farm and go to Houston to study art, but Dora Mae told him she didn’t have the money to send him.  However, Dora Mae’s new neighbors seem to be interested in buying the farm, an unseemly rapid interest given the circumstances of her death.

Jarrett Creek is home to a number of interesting citizens, much like an English village in a Golden Age mystery.  Here, as in many small towns and cities, the younger people leave for what they view as the greener pastures of big cities, leaving farms to lie fallow and local stores to go out of business.  One can hardly blame Greg, a talented artist, for wanting to pursue a career in Houston or beyond, but is that enough motive to kill his grandmother, assuming she really wanted to and was able to prevent him from leaving?

A Killing At Cotton Hill is a wonderful debut novel.  I eagerly look forward to the next Sheriff Samuel Craddock mystery.

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

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