Oh how I have needed a new Samuel Craddock book to read the last few years. Samuel Craddock is a balm for my soul. Yes, there’s murder and mayhem, but Samuel brings a cool, calm center to it all, and to me, as well. This small-town Chief of Police is a fountain of common sense combined with intelligent investigating, and it results in a somewhat folksy police procedural that is irresistibly original. Murder at the Jubilee Rally by Terry Shames is a much welcomed return to one of my favorite series and favorite characters.
Jarrett Creek, Texas is a small town where people pretty much know how others stand on an issue. The issue currently at hand is the Jubilee Rally coming to town, or to the lake outside of town. The town hall meeting is a chance for those for and against the motorcycle rally to speak their minds. Chief of Police Samuel Craddock is on hand to listen to the arguments. Amber Johnson speaks for the merchants of the town, who stand to gain some added revenue for their independent businesses with the rally attendees coming into Jarrett Creek to buy supplies and visit the bar or eating establishments. Lily Deverell leads the citizens who want the whole town to shut down for a week for just those reasons, that the rally attendees come into town with their raucous behavior. The visitors would then be forced to go to neighboring Bobtail with their noise. Samuel, being the consistent voice of reason in Jarrett Creek suggests a compromise of a town curfew, where the shops would close a bit earlier than normal to discourage any disturbances at night.
So, the rally begins with Samuel’s compromise in place, and no reason to believe there will be any trouble. Unfortunately, big trouble finds its way to the rally in the form of murder. Amber Johnson is found stabbed to death at the rally behind the music tent after the event had barely gotten underway. For Samuel, it’s especially bad timing, as his great-niece Hailey, who is sixteen and troubled, is due the next day to spend some time with her Great-Uncle Samuel. Hailey’s father, Tom, was raised by Samuel and his late wife Jeanne, and Hailey had always been a good kid. However, Samuel is letting her visit now because Hailey has become a rebellious teenager and is causing her parents no end of worry. A murder to solve and an unhappy teenager are going to be a major juggling act.
The murder investigation actually falls under the jurisdiction of the state police, but they are slow to start investigating. It seems that they may be purposefully dragging their feet and allowing Chief of Police Craddock to do the digging, since he knows the local people, and it’s uncertain whether it’s rally related or a locally sourced murder. Like any small town, Jarrett Creek has its secrets, and Amber Johnson has a whopper of one that will be revealed. Who better to uncover that than someone who can talk to Amber’s family and people who know her on a more personal level. Finding clues is easier if you know where to look.
Police Chief Samuel Craddock will be run ragged as he tries to understand why Amber Johnson was murdered and why sixteen-year-old Hailey has gone off the rails. He does have some help, and that help comes in the form of two women. His female officer Maria Trevino is back as his best investigative officer, both intuitive and indefatigable in her pursuit of justice. I’m glad author Terry Shames is making this character a major asset in the series, extending Maria’s original temporary status. And, on a personal level, Samuel has his girlfriend Wendy who has raised two girls of her own, one who gave her lots of headaches. Wendy also has a teenage niece who is undergoing her own attitude angst. Luckily, Wendy is also a level-headed, calm personality, so she and Samuel are able to keep their cool in all the teenage drama. Neither one of them is any push-over, but they approach problems with great civility and patience.
Murder at the Jubilee Rally is another hit out of the park for Terry Shames. Every book in this series is consistently well-written, with characters readers can’t wait to get back to (yes, Loretta and her baked goods and advice are in this book, too) and story lines that keep readers engaged from start to finish. I always enjoy following Samuel’s investigations, how he goes about the business of revealing a murderer, putting the evidence and clues together with careful consideration. You can read Murder at the Jubilee Rally without reading the previous eight titles, but I guarantee that once you’ve gotten a taste of this series and an introduction to Samuel Craddock, you will want as much of him as you can get.
Thanks to the author and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book from Severn Publishers.