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by Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, April 2019
272 pages
ISBN: 1633884902

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A RISKY UNDERTAKING FOR LORETTA SINGLETARY is the eighth in the Samuel Craddock series written by Terry Shames. This marvelous set of mysteries just keeps giving and giving and has become one of my favorites among the new authors I have reviewed and watched develop.

To say that reading about Samuel Craddock is a pleasure is just not enough. He is a genuinely good person, as flawed as we all are, but both intelligent and caring. And patient. His willingness to reserve judgment and to continue to do the tedious and sometimes hard work of a small-town rural police chief make him a treasure.

In this novel, Sam and some others notice that his close neighbor and close friend, widow Loretta Singletary (who frequently shows up on his doorstep in the morning with fresh baked sweet rolls and time for a brief visit) hasn't seemed to be around for a few days. This is unusual because nobody can remember her saying that she was going somewhere and a quick check of her house shows that she's not there and her car is gone. A more careful check of her house, after another day or two time for real uneasiness to set in show unwashed dishes left behind and an empty space in a row of suitcases in her closet. When asked, her stone-deaf next neighbor remembers seeing someone, not Loretta, leaving her house recently with a bundle of something.

Sam and Maria, one of his police officers, set up a careful search for Loretta talking to as many of her friends as they can, looking through her bills and correspondence, getting her phone records, and pulling up what she has opened recently on her computer. Area wide law enforcement agencies are asked to be on the lookout for her vehicle. Sam and Maria also consider the changes Loretta has been making in her appearance: newly styled and younger looking hair, more fashionable clothing, and more use of make-up.

Loretta is such a conservative person, so sensible and so careful, that her disappearance makes no sense and Sam's uneasiness steadily changes into fear for her safety. When Sam stumbles upon the likelihood that Loretta has entered the world of online dating and has made dates to meet three or four different men she's contacted, the fear becomes all too real and the passing days increase his sense of the danger she may well be in.

There is a matter-of-fact reality in the atmosphere and day to day doings of Jarrett Creek, Texas. It is such a small rural town tucked away somewhere between Austin and Waco, well out of the mainstream of 21st century American life, and its people get along and don't get along, are happy and unhappy, are successful and unsuccessful, and are good and are awful just as we would expect them to be. It is a major creative accomplishment for Terry Shames and masterfully done.

I am obviously biased in favor of her work. I encourage others to give her a try. She's a wonderfully strong writer.

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, January 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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