The Last Death of Jack Harbin
A Samuel Craddock Mystery
Seventh Street Books, January 2014
I confess to being put off by first person narrators, but after a few pages, Samuel Craddock got inside my head in a very comfortable way. I also look askance on crime fiction written in the present tense, but here the author has pulled it off in fine fashion. By the end of chapter 1 I was well and truly hooked into following a fascinating cast of small town characters to see how they all end up. Jarett Creek, Texas, is a lot like small towns everywhere, except perhaps for Texans’ almost-rabid fixation with their local high school football teams and endless gossip.
Craddock is the retired chief of police of Jarett Creek and he still fondly pokes his nose in almost everywhere. At the least he pays attention and he wonders about what he sees and hears. He’s a sharp dude and can put clues together to find truth.
The novel rambles some, and the cast of characters is long and interesting. The overall pace is good, the writing is excellent and this is just a fine cogent novel. On the plus side, author Shames shines a clear light on some troubling social ills, such as the neglect and treatment of our veterans, casual gambling and gunplay. Still, as I noted above, this is a strong, modern, well-written novel worth every penny and I recommend it.
Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.
Nancy Means Wright
Enigma, May 2013
What would you do if one of your friends died and the autopsy showed she had been poisoned? Fay Hubbard decides to investigate her friend’s murder.
At the time of her death, the dead woman was in the middle of a puppeteer performance. Fay is a divorced goat farmer in her 50’s. She is also foster mother to three young children. Most of the characters in Broken Strings are related by family, foster or adoptive. There are a lot of them and their relationships to each other can be complicated. You’ll want to keep track.
One of the things I especially liked about the book was that their lives didn’t necessarily focus around the murder. They were very busy people, just like real life. They had disorderly lives with issues and problems before the murder ever happened.
Personally, I would have liked the ending to be clearer with more definitive resolutions. There were various theories, but in the end, none of them were actually confirmed.
Still, it was a fun read, with interesting characters and I read the book quickly.
Reviewed by Constance Reader, January 2014.