Book Review | “The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake” (Book No.5 of the Samuel Craddock Mysteries) by Terry Shames

Posted Monday, 12 February, 2018 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Borrowed Book By: I am a reviewer for Prometheus Books and their imprints starting in [2016] as I contacted them through their Edelweiss catalogues and Twitter. I appreciated the diversity of titles across genre and literary explorations – especially focusing on Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction and Scientific Topics in Non-Fiction.

I was happily surprised finding “A Reckoning in the Backcountry” arriving by Post; as this is one title I hadn’t remembered requesting. I tried to back-track if I had requested it but never could sort out if this was one title the publisher felt I might enjoy as I read quite a few of their Mystery authors or if I simply had forgotten one of my requests. Either way, I decided to sort out which installment this was in the sequence – finding the series has five titles previously released. Unfortunately, my local library didn’t have a copy of any of them thereby giving me the chance to seek them through inter-library loan. As I pulled together the synopsis of each of the novels, I uncovered a pattern of interest threading through three of them which seemed to speak to the greater whole of the series: A Killing at Cotton Hill (Book One); Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek (Book Three) and The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake (Book Five). I knew I wouldn’t have time to borrow all five and felt by moving in and out of the sequential order with these three I could have a proper overview of the series before moving into the sixth release “A Reckoning in the Backcountry”.

I borrowed the fifth novel in the Samuel Craddock series “The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake” in trade paperback from my local library via inter-library loan through the consortium of libraries within my state. I was not obligated to post a review as I am doing so for my own edification as a reader who loves to share her readerly life. I was not compensated for my thoughts shared herein.

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on why i am loving reading #samuelcraddock mysteries:

 As I move through the series, I notice different things about Craddock’s character – how tenacious he is to solve crimes using clues which you could almost overlook as ‘clues’ (reminding me of why I love watching Det. Goren, Columbo and Due South‘s lovable Mountie Fraser) whilst he strives to keep his personal views at bay even if there are moments where he struggles with this balance. He also has a lot of compassion for the people involved as life is never cut and dry nor are the circumstances which put people into situations which can alter the course their lives will take. He’s the kind of Chief of police you truly feel empathy for whilst watching how he handles the cases and tries to seek the truth out of complicated crimes. In this way, he does remind me a heap of Jesse Stone who always led with his heart and strove to improve the lives of his community whilst realising sometimes his community will break his heart, too.

There is a truly poignant change of opinion about the previous Chief, the one who was giving Craddock the most angst in A Killing at Cotton Hill and the one where he felt might be a fair share too incompetent to do the work well whilst avoiding his addictive habit as anything more than a secondary interest when it was really overtaking his life. Now, as the tides have turnt against Rodell, Craddock sees how broken he is after he’s had time to address his health. In this, Craddock realises no man is an island – even those who have a harder walk to live and a major crisis of health to overcome have a point where the choices they made eventually catch up to them. The interesting bit is how Craddock reacted to a favour Rodell asked of him and how this proves the truer heart of Craddock of being a man for the people without having a prejudicial heart.

I *knew!* I loved Craddock – yet the way in which he realises a misguided youthful joyride was not befitting the start of a criminal life is what gives your heart a squeeze of joy! He sees people – just as they are and the potential for what they could be – he doesn’t judge out of hand nor does he quickly assess their reasons. He let’s the people he’s speaking to find a way to feel comfortable round him, giving them the chance to lead with something they might wish to impart to the Chief of police but without having to outright put them on the spot. He’s wicked good at his job but it’s how he’s trying to effect change even in subtle ways which makes him a keen role model for his small towne.

-quoted from my review of Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek

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Book Review | “The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake” (Book No.5 of the Samuel Craddock Mysteries) by Terry ShamesThe Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake
Subtitle: A Samuel Craddock Mystery

Nonie Blake is back home from a mental institution where she has spent the last twenty years, and people are worried. Maybe too worried, for within a week of her return, Nonie is murdered.
Police Chief Samuel Craddock thinks the only possible suspects are members of her tight-lipped 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 she has not been there for ten years. Now Craddock has to find out where Nonie has been all this time.

Soon Craddock finds himself dealing not only with murder, but 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 town of Jarrett Creek.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

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ISBN: 9781633881204

on 12th January, 2016

Pages: 270

Published By: Seventh Street Books (@SeventhStBooks)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

About Terry Shames

Terry Shames Photo Credit: Margaretta K. Mitchell

Terry Shames is the Macavity Award-winning author of the Samuel Craddock mysteries A Killing at Cotton Hill, The Last Death of Jack Harbin, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, and A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge. She is also the coeditor of Fire in the Hills, a book of stories, poems, and photographs about the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. She grew up in Texas and continues to be fascinated by the convoluted loyalties and betrayals of the small town where her grandfather was the mayor. Terry is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Photo Credit: Margaretta K. Mitchell

The Samuel Craddock Mysteries:

Series Overview: The well-respected, retired police chief of a small Texas town is called upon to solve crimes that the current chief is unwilling or unable to solve.

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock | Prequel | Synopsis

→ I hadn’t realised this series had a prequel when I first went to gather my ILLs from the library; therefore I missed getting the chance to read the prequel ahead of ‘Cotton Hill’.

A Killing at Cotton Hill | Book One (see also review)

The Last Death of Jack Harbin | Book Two | Synopsis

Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek | Book Three (see also review)

A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge | Book Four | Synopsis

The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake | Book Five

A Reckoning in the Backcountry | Book Six | Synopsis

Converse via: #SamuelCraddock + #Mysteries

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on reading the fifth novel after the third:

I truly have to hand it to Ms Shames for making returning to Craddock’s life and world a pleasurable joy due to her wonderfully brilliant continuity! I could see how some might read this out of sequence but for me it was a necessary way of gaining traction into the heart of the series due to a tight deadline (as ILL’s are somewhat difficult to time if you want to read a newer release after the backlist titles of a series) – for me personally, I love how she ebbs you along, reminding you of a few pertinent details needed to thread the previous installments back to mind but without going overboard. Their almost like little castaway after thoughts but necessary all the same – for if your reading the installments over a period of months or years, these are the little things you might forget as you move back inside the series itself.

As I had to make a conscience choice which three installments to read ahead of reading the latest (the sixth; as I’m not counting the Prequel in sequence) – I have felt truly blessed by how each story has built on the last! I went from the first novel A Killing at Cotton Hill straight into the third Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek before arriving in this one: the fifth! I knew if nothing else, I would at least attempt to borrow the first and fifth novels; as this helps anchour me into the sixth A Reckoning in the Backcountry being as I love the first novels of series to clue me into the author’s style and voice whilst the last novel in sequence would provide the rudder for the next one. This of course is my personal preference – of reading series in order or at least attempting to get a quicker overview is time is limited.

Whilst I’ve undertaken this journey, the joy of course is finding a #newtomeauthor I can start to cheer for and rally behind – of eagerly awaiting the next installments and hoping the series has a heap of longevity ahead of the novels I already know are published! I’ll continue to be grateful this author’s series landed in my postbox – whether by serendipity or through a forgotten request!

my review of the necessary murder of nonie blake:

As soon as Craddock mentioned fire ants I felt ghost pains in my feet! Their not the most friendly creatures in the world – I could well imagine the kind of place he was describing where they would feel in the luxury of their own element. He’s en route to investigate a drowning (of the title character) but what took me by surprise a wee bit is how he’s still the acting Chief! I knew Rodell had entered that difficult stage of his recovery between owning the fact he had to stay true to the changes he was about to make or relapse into a pattern of behaviour which could lead to his death; the curious bit is I was wondering what he chose to do? This is the first thing I thought of as I began reading this installment – what became of Rodell?

As the lens peers closer into the family of Nonie Blake, one has to question how this woman’s sad ending even happened. It’s not an uplifting premise by a long shot as there were situations in Nonie’s childhood which led to her removal from the family – twenty long years went past and she’s suddenly reunited with her siblings, mother and father. Yet, the reunion is tragically cut short and you had the impression the manner of how she died is what upsets Craddock the most. It’s not an open and shut case for him, if anything Nonie herself is giving him far more questions than he has answers to resolve half of them. This is when you see how being the Chief can wear on a person’s soul and how the job itself is not one for someone who has trouble separating their emotions from the work. Craddock approaches all cases with equal dexterity of passion and purpose; he truly wants to not only seek out the truth but to attempt to understand what motivates the crimes themselves. He’s definitely a student of sociological behaviour and with his keen sense of awareness of what can be seen at a crime scene (or what is unusually absent from one) – it is a joy to watch how he processes through each new case he is in a position to investigate.

The tricky part with this installment is how everything appears to be behind a shroud of deceit – nothing is quite as it seems. Even Craddock is having trouble peering into the truth as he has to wade through a series of answers which are half-truths at best and outright inventive lies on the other end. You can well imagine the hardship in knowing which way to take your investigation if more than half the people your first questioning decide to lead you down a path towards a red herring! Oy. As I was reading about Nonie’s past and how she had her homecoming – even my nose was itchy about the details! Something not only felt off about how the family was talking to Craddock – the whole situation felt keenly suspicious due to the conditions of Nonie’s behavioural history.

Ooh, now this is an interesting development! I hadn’t suspected Craddock would fall for Ellen (the art gallery owner) – as I had a feeling he secretly liked the lawyer Jenny; but apparently, she truly was a platonic friend without any romantic inclinations; such as how he appreciates his friendship with Loretta. Although, truth be told – there were a few foreshadows how this might have worked out as one thing Ellen had in common with his late wife Jeanne is a deep appreciation for the world of art. I have a feeling it’s something like this which would swing the pendulum in her favour over the other women of whom are wonderful and all; but they do not share the same passions Craddock would love to find in a woman. Although, if truth be told – they are a bit opposite as well – time will tell if what separates them is enough to break the relationship.

I ought to have seen this coming (about Rodell) but I suppose sometimes even readers get enticed by the hopefulness of seeing a character having a turning of tides in their lives,…

I agreed with Craddock upon meeting the retired school-teacher Lottie – she was a character you almost instantly feel you’ve known a bit longer. She had an ease about her and of course, she knew how to get Craddock to like her simply by baking cookies he couldn’t help himself polish off! Laughs. It’s her intuitive observations and her understanding of psychology as it relates to teens which was most fascinating. I knew the best people growing up to understand childhood and adolescent behaviour would be the people in the trenches – the teachers who see the kids day in and day out. Although she attempted to shine a light on why Nonie acted the way she did, the more interesting revelation came about when she revealled something which tied into the current events of the present. A small fact of truth Craddock had already learnt and possibly the one kernal of insight which might crack the case wide open.

The further Craddock digs into Nonie’s past the more he’s questioning everything he finds – from her school records to her psychological profile at the time she entered the institution and why of course did she ‘go away’ for two decades without anyone questioning the legitimacy of that action? There are other more pressing concerns Craddock has about her family, as well as what could have caused her demise prematurely. The hardest part I felt for him is the more he uncovered the more he had to realise Nonie was not without her faults. She had a particular way about her which strove to cause trouble rather than to keep her life on an even keel. As the series expands, you see how the county police works smoothly between their investigations and how Craddock has more assistance at the ready than he even realised himself at first.

The latest upset is the fact despite the county not having enough funding for detectives or a Chief of police, Bobtail (where everything is routed) had a way of getting an extra deputy for Craddock – a woman who surprised him for being positioned in his rural community as it’s not quite the hopping place for someone who likes law enforcement; although, mind you, the series is a bit like Cabot Cove in that regard: there is more bubbling below the surface than the Chief gives credit! Ever the one to tag-in a bit of current events or contemporary history references into the background of the series, Ms Shames does add-in a bit of feminist perspective on having a woman cop in a small outfit of three men. She also discusses the perceptional influence of diversity and ethnicity whilst striving to point to all perspectives and opinions therein as she reflects the proper way of handling a multicultural office wherein gender equality is not the only one observed.

I think this is the first time where I’ve seen Craddock a bit gobsmacked about how to proceed forward in his investigation. He’s turnt out a lot of locked door leads to where the path forward has been a misnomer or a false lead in the end. He’s back-traced the history of Nonie, talked and re-talked to her family (to the point of exasperation!) whilst entertaining his friends on his hours off – Loretta to Jenny and even Ellen. Nothing is making him feel comfortable about this case as what is confounding about it is the level of deception spun round Nonie herself. If it weren’t for his mind attempting to pull truth out of fiction, I’m unsure if he would have even discovered so much was readily amiss as quickly as he had!

Det Trevino has spunk! She might only have been on the job mere hours rather than days but already I can see she’s going to give Craddock a run for his money! No surprise there! All the women in Jarrett County are fiercely strong, wickedly independent and can hold their own! The irony though is she’s still thinking like a city cop and hasn’t yet adjusted to the goings on of a rural area – such as why the theft of flowers might be more important than it appears on the surface!

The main plot involving Nonie Blake is a heart-breaking one – there is a wonderful twist to the story which I hadn’t quite figured out for myself; in many ways, I’m glad I was clueless because it added to the dimension of the plot for me. Craddock being Craddock – he truly puts his heart into his work, caring for his residents and even when things turn rather bleak round the edges, he’s still hoping for a slightly happier ending once restitution and resolution can be had for all involved. In this particular instance, he was able to relieve the guilt and the anguish of unresolved anxiety from a family who lived far, far to long with a skeleton in their closet which was slowly but surely eroding away their mental health.

In the background of the story, new characters stepped forward and others were re-defined – even Loretta has been given new wings to fly into her own journey of self-discovery – something which started in Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek and continued as we learnt the hard truth about Nonie Blake. Through it all, one thing you have to credit Ms Shames for doing is never making Craddock embittered or hardened due to the job – he might not always like what he finds out but he finds a way to ‘let it go’ and carry on. In many ways, I oft wondered if it’s the fact he lives on a gentleman’s cattle ranch if it makes all the difference in the end. He has nature and his animals to surround him with the joys of how life cycles through the Seasons. He can stay a bit removed from the harshness of the world but stay close-at-hand to the community he loves as much as any man would at the same time. In this, he knew the true secret of how best to live his life.

On the suspenseful styling of terry shames:

One note of gratitude I’ve forgotten to mention on behalf of Ms Shames style of narrative is her near-absence of stronger language! She has her own unique flair of words and phrases which are peppered into the series – they’ve become so familiar to me as I’ve read the novels, they feel like their linguistically Jarrett County inspired! The few odd strong word here or there doesn’t itch my nose like other writers might – for starters, they are always well timed and placed; generally either straight-off the bat somewhere in the first half of the novel or tucked away into the latter half – you’d truly blink missing them at all!

For this, I’m thankful as I champion how stories can be strongly wrought out of a wordsmith’s creative usage of phrase, spoken dialect changes or regional influences on expressions and conveyances of language. I’m not one for vulgarity on a good day in other words! (nor would anyone think I was if they eyed one of the hottest topics I’ve blogged about over the years) It’s just wicked inspiring finding new authors who let the character and their journey speak for themselves without having to feel they need to etch in a word which isn’t as necessary as the character sharing their heart and their perspective on their lives with the reader. Likewise, you might have already sorted this out of being a non-issue for me if you noted I used the tag ‘vulgarity in lit’ but didn’t attach my infamous ‘fly in the ointment’ to the review showcases themselves.

Even when the story-line turns beyond tragic and emotionally jarring as who wants to think a character didn’t have a chance at longevity in life due to circumstances which put them in jeopardy? – Ms Shames pulls you through the narrative by leaving behind small bread crumbs for Craddock to follow, contemplate and ultimately shift out to find the gems. She writes the series with a realistic edge for the darker side of humanity but she ultimately brings everything back to centre. It’s how you go from the beginning to the end which implores you to return back to the series time and time again.

However, I hadn’t read the premise of A Reckoning in the Backcountry prior to moving into the series through my library requests – therefore, I am a bit apprehensive I might not be able to get through the sixth novel as it involves dog fighting. I have a sensitive heart to such things – yet, none of my readings eludes me to be worried in regards to the content or the descriptive narrative – but still. There is a chance this will be one story I either realise isn’t my cuppa or is one which was written with the sensitivity it deserved. Either way, my journey thus far into the back-history of Chief Craddock has been wicked brilliant!

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For those who are curious if I was listening to music whilst I read this installment of the #SamuelCraddock series – yes, I continued to play the Classical channels I had become smitten with on Pandora Radio! Loads of overtures and soundscapes featuring violins, cellos and piano solos! They became the background pulse of the series & left me with an incredibly layered reading experience for which I am grateful to have experienced!

The only issue I had reading this novel is the copy I had from an ILL library in the consortium is the book smelt oddly weird! I couldn’t put my finger on the smell itself – only that my nose twitched the whole time I read it & at one point my eyes grew a mite too itchy for comfort! I am unsure which of my allergies was being triggered – but if you’ve ever borrowed a library book and the one time you were generally engaged in a series before finding the book was making you have an allergy attack – you know the reasons why this novel took me longer to read because it was a struggle against will to try to not focus on what made this paperback smell so strangely! I would have tried to borrow another copy but the turnaround would have made that a bit impossible! I took breaks from reading it & all was well – so it was definitely an ‘unexplained phenomena’ whilst enjoying my journey w/in the series!

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “A Killing at Cotton Hill”, “The Last Death of Jack Harbin”, “Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek”, “A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge”, “The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake” and “A Reckoning in the Backcountry” along with the series synopsis, novel synopsis, author biography and the author photograph of Terry Shames were provided by the publisher Seventh Street Press (via Prometheus Books) and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

I’m a social reader | I love sharing my reading life
This first tweet I shared is the start of a ‘micro-blog’ on Twitter where I continued to share my readerly thoughts as I was reading about Nonie Blake! Be sure to click this tweet to see all the other tweets which are threading beneath it and watch my journey!

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 12 February, 2018 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 20th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Crime Fiction, Detective Fiction, Prometheus Books, Small Towne USA, Texas, Vulgarity in Literature

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