The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake: A Samuel Craddock Mystery (Samuel Craddock Mysteries): Terry Shames
In a small town called Jarrett Creek a young girl comes back into town unnoticed. A family that seems distant and close-knit yet in reality each one harboring their own secrets and thoughts as a member of their family unexpectedly arrives causing a chain of events that would change their lives forever. Why was Nonie Blake sent home from a mental institution with her suitcase in hand and no notice to anyone that she was about to arrive? For 20 years she was housed in this institution for trying to kill her young sister Charlotte by hanging her. The fact that she was returning frightened the residents and living with her family again brought back memories they chose to forget. Difficult to handle, not sociable at all and distant from her family, Nonie was not exactly welcomed with open arms upon her return. But, someone did not want her there. Someone made sure her stay was short as within one week she was brutally murdered. Why?
Enter Chief Samuel Craddock called to the scene and never expecting to be handed the case. Knowing the family and interviewing them did not bring much to light at first as he soon realizes that someone close to her wanted her out of the way. A family divided in their allegiances and their feelings, a father who is battling with dementia and a mother who seems aloof to the truth about her daughter, this family has secrets that they do not want revealed. But, Sam is smart and his techniques might not meet the standards of a big city police chief, he enters into this with his eyes wide opened and enlists the help of his limited staff, Nonie’s teacher, therapist and a lawyer friend close to him in order to learn more about her, how she fared in school, why she was so obstinate and sought attention in different ways and why someone wanted her gone.
Interviewing her mother, sister and even her older brother who arrives unexpectedly, the hostility is there, the anger quite prevalent as all Sam wants to do is investigate a murder but for some reason the family would rather it lie dormant. Speaking with her teachers learning about her behavior in school, finding out about the family she babysat for and trying to understand her mental condition, there were some who cooperated and others who wanted him gone. Files would reveal that Nonie was bi-polar and yet she did not take medication. Committed by her parents to remain in the mental institution and hopefully never be released what happens when Sam learns the truth and finds out she has not been there for ten years. Did her family know? The author weaves a tale of suspense; intrigue and deception as we learn more about the inner workings of a mental institution, a mentally ill young teen and a family who wanted to make it all go away but how and why?
Speaking with the husband of a woman who died but who Nonie babysat for her kids he learns even more but the hostility comes out and speaking with a young mother she reveals that Nonie often snooped into her parent’s room and business and perhaps that is why the husband of this woman did not want him interfering in his business of life.
Reading her psychiatric file Sam learns that Nonie was smart, intelligent, you might say crafty and cunning as she claimed she knew things about her family and people in Jarrett County that no one wanted her to reveal. But, nowhere in the report did it state she was bi-polar as her mother alluded to. Added in when interviewing her father John, with dementia he seemed quite forthcoming with the fact that he did not like Nonie, claimed she was not his daughter and you begin to wonder just what this family was hiding and why.
Each member of the family provided Sam with their own version of what happened when Nonie returned but each one was hiding something. Adelaide the mother knew she was released from the mental institution yet never told Sam or anyone else. Billy her son was in contact with her and Charlotte seems to have accepted what she did but no one would admit that Nonie might have returned to blackmail him or her, threaten him or her or they even feared her return. Adelaide stated that she hoped the visit would be short but no one really had a handle on her behavior or why she really came back home. Lies, deceits, blackmail, betrayals and even more as Sam sifts through the many stories, meets with the family’s where Nonie babysat and realizes that somewhere within these stories there is a hidden truth.
Added in Maria Trevino comes to town sent by the sheriff to enhance security in this small town but she is Hispanic, Sam is not ready for her and just how she will fit in remains to be seen.
The new officer is quite astute and the information she learns about Nonie changes everything, as Sam is lead to a small town in Florida and the twist in the story you just won’t believe. Lies, betrayals, a death that was a true deception and work of someone who wanted everyone to believe one thing but it was really another. As Sam delves deeper into the murder of Nonie what is revealed is a huge cover up. Learning more about Nonie’s diagnosis he uncovers that she was narcissism, paranoid and thought people had secrets that she wanted to uncover. Possibly blackmailing others and claiming she knew things about the people in her hometown that they did not want revealed. But, yet the doctor reading her file claimed she had a conscience. Just what is the real story? Why did the family lie about her and who was it that came back to town as Nonie?
A medical examiner’s report and cross referencing it with her intake report at the mental institution reveals that Maria is quite astute as a new officer and that something is odd about Nonie’s death. With the help of Maria and the new facts he learned in Jacksonville, Sam comes back ready to question the family again, learn why they were covering up the truth and what someone hoped to gain or change. Just who was killed in their pond? Why did they create a huge lie?
Within this town there is Loretta who is Sam’s neighbor and seems to have her pulse on what is going on within the town. Gossip is her major but when asked to be discreet she is. When questioning Blake family’s financial adviser Sam hopes to learn more about their investments, their status and more about the real murder victim. As he uncovers information about both Nonie and another woman what was their real connection? Why did the family lie about Nonie being in the institution for 20 years when she was released 10 years before?
The author delves into the minds of two mentally ill young women whose goals might be the same and whose methods quite different. Just why did Nonie want to kill her sister? Why did this other girl seem threatening to the Blakes? Who would benefit from her death?
Hidden secrets come out and pasts become known as one clever and smart Police Chief does not skirt around any issues digs deep into family histories and what he learns and uncovers explains more than just who murdered a young woman. Just what did Nonie find out? Just what is the family’s secret? Just what happens to the Blakes you will have to learn when you follow the investigation along with his new Deputy Maria who turns out to be quite smart, sharp and definitely what Sam needs to handle cases and keep him on his toes. What is the secret that Nonie thought Charlotte would divulge? Just who is guilty of what and why you won’t believe. The author brings to light family loyalties, betrayals, lies and the hope that no one will ever learn their deep and darkest secrets.
As Sam is ensconced in this case and his friend Ellen leaves her dog with him what happens and who saves the day when he comes face to face with the real killer you just won’t believe. But, one of my favorite parts of the book is the cooking lesson that Sam gave to Ellen. Since I am a non-cook and enjoyed listening to his rendition of how to make stew, I truly appreciated poor Ellen’s dilemma. So, besides the Five golden stars that I will give this great title I will give Ellen Five cooking lessons from Emeril or Bobby Flay and five golden mixing bowls to help prepare the meals. Author Terry Shames has a new fan in this book reviewer and Sam definitely is smart, perceptive, and astute and can take on any case as well as any big city detective.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine