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by Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, April 2015
271 pages
ISBN: 163388046X

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Sam Craddock, interim police chief of Jarrett Creek, Texas, continues to grow in charm, intelligence, and decency in this, the fourth in author Terry Shames' mystery series. When his friend Jenny Sandstone is struggling to cope with the approaching death of her mother, Craddock comes to the hospital to offer support and an occasional break from her vigil. In one of the moments when he is alone with her, Jenny's mother tells him that Jenny is in terrible danger and asks him to look for her relatives, among them a first wife. Craddock knows very little of Jenny's earlier life as this a part of her that she keeps closed off from everyone in their small town. There was a father who disappeared and there is an estranged brother and unhappiness, but that's about all Craddock is aware of. However, he deeply values his friends in the limited community they live in and his loyalty spurs on his function as police chief to discover what he can in order to see that Jenny remains safe.

While her mother was dying and during her funeral, Jenny's horses are turned loose to amble through town and then there are further signs of intruders on her property. After the burial Jenny is badly injured in an automobile accident that soon appears to Craddock to be no accident at all. What he sees of the brother who shows up in time to get the mother to change her will was she afraid of him? makes him very uneasy so he finds someone to sleep in the barn and watch out for the horses and house and someone else to clear all of Jenny's mother's possessions out of her house so that the brother can have it. Then the man guarding the horses is attacked and Jenny's house searched. She is so unable to handle the stress that she begins to drink heavily, withdrawing into an alcoholic fog.

Both kind and loyal, Craddock starts his investigation all over again, digging as deeply into the past as he and his contacts can figure out how to dig, seeking some kind of motive for the sudden hateful and violent attention Jenny is suffering. Craddock uses what he uncovers to make sense of what is going on but his promise to guard Jenny goes far beyond her physical safety.

Shames has delivered a stand-alone novel that any mystery lover can appreciate easily without the first three books. But at the same time, the four novels as a set present a slice of rural Texas that is a little world of its own, rich in individual personalities and quirks and an undercurrent of ongoing and ever-changing perspectives and relationships.

What I am finding in this series is a protagonist who is easy to be with, plenty wise and able, and rare enough that I am hoping for a long run of episodes. Thank you, Terry Shames.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, April 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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