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by Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, July 2013
245 pages
ISBN: 1616147997

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Widower Samuel Craddock, recently retired as Police Chief of Jarrett Creek, Texas, learns of the murder of his longtime friend Dora Lee Parjeter. Uneasy about the lack of skill and motivation the new Police Chief shows, Sam goes out to the crime scene to find out what he can. There is a grandson living on Dora Lee's farm in a converted shed, a young man of huge artistic promise whose slim chances at a promising future are cut off by the new Chief who sees in the youth an easy person to accuse and arrest without having to go to the trouble of mounting an investigation.

Sam arranges for the grandson to have good legal representation and gradually uncovers a nest of possible suspects including greedy relatives, an estranged and oddly behaved daughter of Dora Lee's, and neighbors who appear to have designs on the land Dora Lee owned. Whether any of these people have anything to do with Dora Lee's death or even with each other is just part of what Sam sets out to sort through. Complicating things, Sam's house is set on fire and his valuable art collection nearly destroyed, perhaps a warning to back off and perhaps an entirely different kind of attack.

Author Terry Shames's handling of small town rural Texas life is dead on and her development of Sam Craddock is astonishingly rounded and polished, not at all what one often runs into with a first-of-a-series novel. Her protagonist reminds me in some ways of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael by being a man of principle and sturdy goodness that rule his behavior, coupled with a willingness to extend himself for others and to persevere to the end through all sorts of discouragements. This author's affection for Sam Craddock is mirrored in his fondness for the people of the town he continues to serve voluntarily. I am eager to see more books about him.

If I have a criticism, it is a small one: I am an old American more comfortable with the conventional use of the simple past for narration rather than the present tense. Well, that would be a silly reason to skip this series.

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, August 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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