Saturday, 4 November 2017
TERRY SHAMES - AN UNSETTLING CRIME FOR SAMUEL CRADDOCK (2017)
When the Jarrett Creek Fire Department is called to douse a blaze on the outskirts of town, they discover a grisly scene: five black young people have been murdered. Newly elected Chief of Police Samuel Craddock, just back from a stint in the Air Force, finds himself an outsider in the investigation headed by the Texas Highway Patrol. He takes an immediate dislike to John Sutherland, a racist trooper
Craddock's fears are realized when Sutherland arrests Truly Bennett, a young black man whom Craddock knows and respects. Sutherland cites dubious evidence that points to Bennett, and Craddock uncovers facts leading in another direction. When Sutherland refuses to relent, Craddock is faced with a choice that will define him as a lawman - either let the highway patrol have its way, or take on a separate investigation himself.
Although his choice to investigate puts both Craddock and his family in danger, he perseveres. In the process, he learns something about himself and the limits of law enforcement in Jarrett Creek.
I've been a fan of this series for a few years now, reading four of the five mysteries that preceded this one. An Unsettling crime is a prequel and a hark back to earlier days when Craddock wasn't a widower and he had his first appointment in law enforcement.
There's a fair bit of the personal in this case. We establish that Samuel and his wife are happily married though she wishes he wasn't a sheriff. The pair get to take care of their nephew, Tom a lot, as we get first hand experience of the fecklessness of Craddock's brother and sister-in-law and a close up of Craddock's own mother. Not a pretty sight.
The crime, the murder of five young black people gives Craddock the chance to establish his credentials as a decent, thorough and conscientious officer as opposed to a lazy one. By contrast, John Sutherland of the Texas Highway Patrol, looking for a quick fix and an easy arrest on the basis of flimsy evidence. Cur for some butting of heads.
Plenty of racial undertones present. Craddock has to try and penetrate a black wall of silence if he is to help Truly Bennett get out of jail.
I enjoyed this one, but I didn't take to it as much as some of the earlier books in the series. It was interesting getting a lot of back story on Craddock and the book lets him earn his props. I didn't like his wife and don't feel she worthy of the sainthood, bestowed on her memory in later books. Still its his wife and grief, not mine so we'll forgive him that.
Enjoyable small town setting as per usual. Interesting exploration of racial themes, I think the books is set sometime in the 80s. There's a few other crimes to look into other than the murder and the potential railroading of our innocent suspect - drug use and drug dealing among the high school populace. The kind of small town crime, Craddock was supposed to be concentrating on and fixing when he was appointed sheriff.
4 from 5
Terry Shames has her website here.
Her Samuel Craddock series comprises the following:
An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock (2017)
1. A Killing At Cotton Hill (2013)
2. The Last Death of Jack Harbin (2014)
3. Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek (2014)
4. A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge (2015)
5. The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake (2016)
Coming next year.
6. A Reckoning in the Back Country (2018)
Read in October, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 270
Source - review copy from publisher, Seventh Street Books
Format - paperback