The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake
By Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books
Paperback, 225 pp., $15.95/17.00 CA$
Reviewed by Gloria Feit
Samuel Craddock is the Acting Police Chief for Jarrett Creek, Texas. The former Chief had died a while ago, and Craddock was hired after the town went bankrupt and they convinced him to return to the job he had had years ago, filling in at the mayor’s request until the town, now bankrupt, can afford to hire someone else. He is widowed and somewhat older than your usual top cop; he had been chief years back, now and for the past few months filling in at the mayor’s request until the town, now bankrupt, can afford to hire someone else. But this is ‘his town,’ and like most of the townspeople, he cares about the people who live there.
As the novel begins, apparently most people in town are angry and horrified when Winona (“Nonie” to all) Blake returns home from a mental institution where she has spent the last 20 years. Within a week of her return, Nonie is murdered. Chief Craddock thinks the only possible suspects are members of her tightlipped 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 Nonie was released ten years ago. Now Craddock has to find out where she has been all that time, and soon finds himself dealing with 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.
Just in case Craddock isn’t busy enough trying to solve a murder, someone is apparently sneaking into the yards of the flower growers in the community and cutting their best flowers.
This is the 5th book by this author, the 2nd in the series that I have read, and is just as delightful as its predecessor, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge. Ms. Shames captures the small town atmosphere and the inhabitants of Jarrett Creek in a very convincing way. The investigation takes several unexpected turns. The twists and turns in the murder investigation prompt Craddock at one point to say that he feels as if he’d been in a rabbit hole, and has the reader feeling somewhat the same. But the author wraps up the investigation, and the novel, in a wholly satisfying manner, and left this reader waiting impatiently for the next in the series. The novel was just the thing for this time of year, when one [or this reader at least] prefers to avoid the dark and graphic (the people of Jarrett Creek and Bobtail are delightful), and it is recommended....Continua