Book Reviews: The Last Death of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames and Broken Strings by Nancy Means Wright

The Last Death of Jack HarbinThe Last Death of Jack Harbin
A Samuel Craddock Mystery
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, January 2014
ISBN 978-1-61614-871-3
Trade Paperback

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.



Broken StringsBroken Strings
Nancy Means Wright
Enigma, May 2013
ISBN 978-0615743554
Trade Paperback

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.


Book Blitz: The Only Boy by Jordan Locke

The Only Boy Blitz Banner


Title: The Only Boy
Author: Jordan Locke
Publication date: December 17th 2013
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult



Mary is stuck in Section One, living with three hundred women in a
crumbling hospital. She wonders what life was like two centuries ago, before the
Cleansing wiped out all the men. But the rules—the Matriarch’s senseless
rules—prevent her from exploring the vacant city to find out.

Taylor’s got a dangerous secret: he’s a boy. His compound’s been destroyed,
and he’s been relocated to Section One. Living under the Matriarch means
giving up possessions, eating canned food and avoiding all physical contact.
Baggy clothes hide his flat chest and skinny legs, but if anyone
discovers what lies beneath, he’ll be exiled. Maybe even executed.

Mary’s never seen a boy—the Matriarch cut the pictures of men from the
textbooks—and she doesn’t suspect Taylor’s secret. If she knew, she might
understand the need to stop the girls from teasing him. If she knew, she
might realize why she breaks the rules, just to be near him.
Then again, she might be frightened to death of him.

Taylor should go. The Matriarch is watching his every move. But running
means leaving Mary—and braving the land beyond the compound’s boundaries.



Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button        Amazon Buy Button


An Excerpt From The Only Boy: Mary’s Point of View


I stand on the roof, scanning the city. Many of the buildings are crumbling, from centuries of decay. Below me, trash from the hospital circles the compound, piled into a wall. A fuel tanker sits on one side of our water tower, a broken-down car on the other. In the distance lies the forest. I would love to wander through the trees, to search for whatever wildlife still lives, to see if I can find just one flower.

It isn’t the rules that stop me. It’s the Earthers—the women who live in the woods. I saw two of them, years ago, when I snuck out one day and wandered into the forest. A child’s voice echoed in the distance. I hid behind a bush and peered through the leaves. A woman and her daughter approached, wearing deerskin parkas, their skin darkened by the sun. I wondered, without men and without a genetics lab, how was the daughter created?

The Only BoyThe girl heaved a spear at a tree, and it fell short of the trunk.

“You need to follow through,” the woman said. “And turn your hips.” She made a twisting motion. “Like this.”

“Why can’t we just eat vegetables?”

“Snow will come soon.” The woman picked up the spear. “The crops won’t last through winter.”

“I’m not gonna kill the animals,” the girl said.

“When you’re hungry enough, you will.” The woman turned my way, and I ducked. Their footsteps grew closer, their voices louder. They were within feet of the bush. I crouched. Leaves crunched under my knees. When the footsteps stopped, I ran. Before I got more than a few yards, my foot caught on a stick, and I fell. By the time I righted myself, the woman hovered over me, holding the tip of the spear to my chest.

The girl ran to the woman’s side. “Don’t kill her!”

“Get back, Wren!” She moved the spear to my face, inches from my nose, and held a frightening scowl.

The girl pulled on her mother’s skirt. “You’re scaring her.”

The woman’s eyes never left me as she scooped up the girl. With the spear pointed at me, she backed away. Even though my hands were shaking and I could barely stand, I wanted to follow them into the forest.


About the Author


Jordan LockeJordan Locke lives in Connecticut with his wife, two lively daughters and a well-behaved whippet. A graphic designer by trade, his creativity spilled over into the literary world. After years of writing, reading and learning the craft, his fifth novel, The Only Boy, brought him offers of representation from two well-known agents. Now, after the dog is fed and the kids are in bed, you will find him tapping away at the keyboard.


Author links:


Website Button        Twitter Button        Goodreads Button 2



Xpresso Book Tours Button