Small Town Lies—A Review of The Necessary Death of Nonie Blake by Terry Shames appears in the Mystery Readers Journal Volume 32, Number 4 Winter 2016-2017: Small Town Cops II. As an active member of Sisters in Crime, I have access to the latest mysteries and thrillers and review many at Building a Better Story as well as on Amazon, Goodreads and NetGalley. I also review other genre of fiction and audiobooks.
Small Town Lies
A Review of The Necessary Death of Nonnie Blake by Terry Shames
I was stymied when my niece moved her family to a small town in the Texas Hill Country some years ago. Why would anyone leave the Bay Area for a couple acres of scrub oak and a pickup truck in a town so small you’ve missed it if you yawn? Not that I have anything against small towns. I grew up in Ross so long ago it still retained a small town character. We knew everybody, and people looked out for each other. Eddie’s Ross Grocery and the Sunday social in the Rectory after church were rich in gossip. Officer Flowers kept the peace and investigated crimes—usually something to do with petty theft. Life seemed tranquil and safe.
But still—my family has taken up residence in a small town several states away? I didn’t get it—that is, until I discovered Terry Shames’s delightful mystery series set in a small Texas town. Shames won the Macavity Award for best first novel in 2013 for A Killing at Cotton Hill, the first Samuel Craddock mystery set in Jarrett Creek. She has since published The Last Death of Jack Harbin, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, and her latest, The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake, all chronicling the slow as molasses lifestyle and the dark secrets festering below the veneer of peacefulness of this sleepy town.
Shames’s fascination with the town, similar to Jarrett Creek, where her grandfather was mayor and where she grew up is clear through her precise documentation of the details of small town life. She’s created a cast of characters that could represent any small American town, yet are inextricably bound to Jarrett Creek starting with the hero, Samuel Craddock. He’s an unpretentious widower, the town’s retired police chief, who has been called out of retirement after Jarrett Creek runs out of money. He’s old fashioned and gentlemanly, prefers the company of women and his cattle, and is at home sipping lemonade and eating berry-filled buns in his neighbor, Loretta’s, kitchen while she gossips about everyone in town. In fact, she’s a prime source of intelligence when Craddock is investigating a murder.