Tuesday, January 16, 2018
A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames: Reading Room Review
Spending time with Samuel Craddock in Jarrett Creek, Texas is truly like visiting with an old friend. There are characters and settings that just find a way into your heart, and reading each book in the series becomes a conversation in getting to know that person and place better, like the evolution of any friendship. The supporting characters bring a satisfying familiarity, too, and I swear I can smell Loretta's cinnamon rolls (if I could only taste them). Even Samuel's cows are fondly followed. A Reckoning in the Back Country is #7 in the Samuel Craddock Mysteries, and one in which we see a couple of changes in Samuel's life, one sweet, one complicated.
It is a few days before Thanksgiving in Jarrett Creek, and Police Chief Samuel Craddock is short-staffed due to personal time taken and unexpected illness. So, he takes the call about a missing man from one of the lakeside houses, where out-of-towners own and reside mostly on holidays and weekends, and he goes out to the residence to interview the wife reporting the disappearance. While talking to neighbors of the couple, two children run to their grandparents screaming and crying at what they stumbled across in the woods behind the houses. It is a gruesome discovery indeed. The missing Dr. Lewis Wilkins lies dead with his throat savaged by animals. The local vet is called to the scene, and he quickly determines that the bites and tearing were caused by dogs. With recent reports of dogs gone missing from their owners and rumors of dog fighting in the area, Samuel wonders if there is a connection to the death. Noting that Wilkins' hands showed signs of having been tied, it is apparent that a murder has occurred. Whatever the cause of death, it had a human hand in it.
Samuel soon learns that Dr. Lewis Wilkins has a troubled past and a multitude of secrets from his family. A recent malpractice case had placed the doctor in financial straits and an uncertain future, with his medical practice ruined. As the determined police chief digs deeper and deeper into the life of this man, gambling and other financial dealings start rearing their ugly heads. The man's family is as surprised as Samuel at the information that is unraveled. But, who wanted him dead enough to orchestrate such a horrific death? The return of Deputy Maria Trevino from personal leave gives Samuel Craddock the extra pair of hands and the partner he needs to help figure out this complex case that seems to go in so many directions. They do have their work cut out for them though.
The crime, of course, will be solved, and it is all a brilliant, thrilling ride to the end, but I am always left wanting more of Samuel and his friends and neighbors and Jarrett Creek. That happens when an author writes such an authentic, appealing cast of characters and setting. The reader always wants more. Terry Shames writes amazing murder/crime stories, and she gives them the personal stamp of charm and humor and familiarity that makes them feel like coming home. I can hardly wait until the next visit.