The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake
A Samuel Craddock Mystery #5
Seventh Street Books, January 2016
From the publisher—
“She was a dangerous girl and people think she’ll be a dangerous woman.”
Nonie Blake is back home from a mental institution where she has spent the last twenty years, and people in Jarrett Creek are worried. Maybe too worried, for within a week of her return, Nonie is murdered.
Chief Samuel Craddock thinks the only possible suspects are members of her tight-lipped family. Ever since Nonie tried to kill her sister when she was fourteen and was sent away to the institution, the family has kept to itself.
Clues are scarce and Craddock is stumped. So he checks with therapists at the mental hospital to see whether they can add anything useful to his investigation. But he discovers that she has not been there for ten years. Now Craddock has to find out where Nonie has been all this time.
Soon Craddock finds himself dealing not only with murder, but layers of deception and secrets, and in the midst of it all—a new deputy, one Maria Trevino, sent by the sheriff to beef up security in the small Texas town.
Back when I was a bookshop owner, I developed a real fondness for mystery series based in Texas and Florida and I know plenty of other readers also are particularly drawn to them. Such authors as Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Rick Riordan, Susan Wittig Albert, Bill Crider, Joe R. Lansdale, Susan McBride, Leann Sweeney, Nancy J. Cohen, Mary Anna Evans, Kathy Hogan Trochek, Elaine Viets and Randy Wayne White were my early-on favorites and more have joined the fray in recent years. None top Terry Shames in my opinion.
One of the most wide-spread rumors about living in small towns or rural areas is that everybody knows everybody else’s business and there is a lot of truth in that but it’s also true that secrets are kept in small towns. That’s what Samuel begins to discover after Nonie Blake comes home unexpectedly and then is murdered just a few days later. Where has Nonie really been all these years? Did her family, ALL of her family, forgive her for the heinous attack on her sister and why did she do it? Perhaps most perplexing, did the family keep to itself all this time because of a natural embarrassment or have they been hiding even more secrets?
Adding more tension to Chief Craddock’s job this time is the addition of Maria, a female Hispanic cop, to the force, appointed by the sheriff. It’s not that Samuel is biased against her but this is a town that has suspicions about strangers and her ethnic background plus her gender in a “man’s” job don’t help. Meanwhile, when Samuel agrees to teach his friend, Julie, how to cook a fine meal for a date, I found myself grinning during the entire episode, starting with the trip to the grocery store. Also, spending time with Samuel on his small cattle ranch and with Ellen, the art gallery owner who’s beginning to make him feel more than a little attracted, portrays the Chief as a nicely well-rounded guy.
It’s that normal side of life that adds a dimension to this series I appreciate so much. In some ways, I’m reminded of Donna Leon because we get to know the character so well, not just the police work. Samuel Craddock has become one of my favorite lawmen and I’m always assured there will be a good mystery to keep me guessing. That puts Terry Shames in my very short list of authors I always have to read and The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake is an excellent addition to the series.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.