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A RECKONING IN THE BACK COUNTRY
by Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, January 2018
272 pages
$15.95
ISBN: 1633883671


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's almost Thanksgiving in Jarrett Creek, Texas and a number of things are making Police Chief Sam Craddock uneasy. There have been three or four dogs reported missing, too many to be simple wandering off. The woman he's been interested in for a while has decided to go "home" to her children for the weekend and that means that she'll be seeing the husband she divorced for being abusive she and Sam are both tense and awkward about this. And, most seriously, a man who has been staying in his vacation house nearby has disappeared and there doesn't seem to be any trace of him in the area.

Things quickly escalate. Sam finds a dog that was missing, which has died probably of natural causes but also has clearly recently had a litter. And he finds one very young one alive but no sign of any others. Ellen, his romantic interest leaves and he is invited to a neighbor's house for the feast where he meets Wendy, a woman his age who is sexy and exciting and just as attracted to him as he is to her. And two young boys stumble across the murdered body of the man who disappeared.

Sam ends up with the puppy without wanting to but finds it growing on him and working its way into his life. Ellen is distant on the phone and he worries whether she has somehow made up with her former husband and he feels guilty about how fast a relationship between him and Wendy is developing and how much he wants it to. The murdered man, a physician who hasn't been practicing since he lost a massive suit for making errors in surgery, is turning out to be nothing like the man Sam thought he was he has all kinds of secrets and secret activities.

This is simply a wonderful extension of the first five novels in this terrific series and it shows some new sides of Sam Craddock that are unexpected but which fit him well. He continues to be one of the truly good guys not something particularly easy for a writer to pull off. Very few authors bother to try.

Terry Shames' strengths lie in bringing readers a protagonist we can be comfortable with not so much because he is like us but because he cares so much about who he is and how he conducts himself. That alone is refreshing. Coupled with Shames' masterful handling of an easy narrative style and a really well thought-through setting and sets of characters, the Craddock mystery series is one to savor.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, December 2017

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