October is proving to be just as spectacular as I thought with outstanding mysteries from Betty Webb, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and now Terry Shames. Shames brings back that thoughtful retired police chief, Samuel Craddock, in her latest, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek. I tend to think of her books, along with those from other authors such as Craig Johnson, Bill Crider, and Steven F. Havill, as western mysteries. They all feature lawmen dealing with contemporary issues and crimes.
The town of Jarrett Creek, Texas can't afford to keep Craddock in retirement. In fact, they are so broke, they can't afford to pay for more than two part-time officers. The new mayor has a plan, though, to ask Craddock to work as police chief for $1 a year. And, the very night of the meeting to discuss it, Gary Dellmore is murdered behind the American Legion hall. As Craddock asks questions, he discovers there are a number of people who might have wanted to kill Dellmore. He was self-important, the son of the owner of the local bank. He had a roving eye. And, the more Craddock digs, the more he finds out about the business scandal that sunk Jarrett Creek. It seems Gary Dellmore had a hand in that as well.
Like every police officer in a small community, Samuel Craddock can't focus his attention on just the murder. There are stolen cars and break-ins, the failed business investment, and a man stalking his ex-wife. And, there's all that gossip of a small community that needs to be listened to if a smart lawman wants to uncover the town's secrets. Craddock, the best police chief Jarrett Creek ever had, knows to listen as people spread rumors, discussing cheating spouses and people whose businesses aren't where they were a few years ago.
Shames introduced Samuel Craddock in her first mystery, A Killing in Cotton Hill. Samuel Craddock remains her greatest accomplishment. He's a methodical, quiet man who tends to keep his private life private after the death of his wife. And, he surprises people. He owns a small herd of cattle, and an impressive modern art collection. He's a lawman who listens, asking questions, and gathering the facts until they lead to a killer, sometimes a surprising one in a small community.
For those of us who appreciate police procedurals that uncover the truths and secrets of a small town, Terry Shames' Samuel Craddock is a treasure. And, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek only adds to his legend.
Terry Shames' website is www.terryshames.com
Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek by Terry Shames. Seventh Street Books. 2014. ISBN 9781616149963 (paperback), 266p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.