The Unsettling Case for Samuel Craddock
Prejudice, hate, discrimination and guilt by they color of your skin is at the heart of this mystery filled with heartbreaking scenes and law enforcement agencies that will not go that extra mile to learn the truth behind five senseless murders and a fire that took the lives of children. Called to the scene of a fire police chief Samuel Craddock who is just starting to learn the ropes of the job is now under fire to solve not only who started the fire but why were several black children killed. The fire was not the cause of their deaths but something else was. As he begins to assess the scene Sam faces many roadblocks from the Texas Highway Patrol in charge of the case and the Bobtail police force. Smart, yet unsure of his abilities and not sure what he can and cannot investigate Sam at first takes a spectators view of the crime but when push came and was challenged he definitely met it head on. Jeanne his wife is distraught that he took the job and wishes that he would quit and change gears. Handling the towns people is difficult and dealing with the black families he at first finds resistance but as the story moves along Sam is persistent and won’t stop until the real killer or killers are found and brought to justice. Added in there is a serious drug problem in the high school and each time he tries to handle it he comes up against a brick wall. Seeing a group of teens at the park smoking pot he questions them and the ringleader thinks he escaped jail. But, when a young girl is seriously ill and taken to the hospital Charlie might learn that this time daddy’s words, harsh as they might seem to the principal and his threats will not be taken lightly and he might just pay the price for supplying drugs to everyone in the school. Sam is smart, perceptive and sees details that others do not once he begins to realize that he has a stake in what is happening. When they arrest Truly Bennett because they found a note that they claim incriminated him with something in regard to his sister, John Sutherland the one on charge of the investigation arrested him. The interplay between the characters is formidable and tense since it deals with prejudice vs. open minded. Pushing Sam aside and making him feel incompetent Sutherland does not go after all the evidence or even try to prove that Truly is not guilty. Sam is doing his own investigation and even instigated someone to rile up the black community and not stopping even when threatened. Told in the first person narrative Sam relates his feelings and frustrations about how he is being treated.
Sam deals with many different forces within this novel as we meet Bennett Penny, George Cato and learn about two real estate agents that are corrupt and why Cato dealt with them and their connection to the killer. Meeting with Truly’s father and sister he gets one point of view but dealing with his own brother Horace and his wife Donna what comes out will cause Sam to have to make a decision that will change his family dynamics for good. No matter what he asks or tells Sutherland he turns a deaf ear. When he finally puts all of the pieces together and learns who is really behind the drugs in Jarrett Creek, who is supplying Charlie and the end result of his investigation once again Sam has to make a decision between right and wrong. Leaks are usually not given by the police department but somehow Sam manages to get certain information out there and things heat up causing him to sent Jeanne and his nephew Tom away with her mother to be safe. When someone tries to take him out while at the football field trying to set a trap for the drug supplier, Sam realizes that he might have put it all together but how can he prove it? Going to Darktown where the murders occurred, dealing with Gato’s half brother and learning more, we realize that there are many moral issues, police issues, proper protocol and yet knowing that sometimes going outside the box is the only way to proceed. With the help of Luke Schoppe from the Texas Rangers they manage to stand up to Bennett Penny, take him in for questioning and then slowly and methodically realizes what happened and how Charlie Ostrand figures in, how to deal with his overbearing father who thinks money talks and then he walks, and finally sharing what he found and learned with Sutherland and hoping that he will realize truly when he realizes that the evidence does not prove a thing, the bullets that were fired were fired after Truly was arrested and he had no link to the fires or the murders? Will he listen or will Truly pay because he is black and Sutherland needs to have a suspect and go about his day? Threats to his position, promises that he would lose his job, threats to his family and him and a chief of Police created by author Terry Shames that every big city and small town needs. Integrity, moral compass, hardworking, caring, understanding and perceptive and most of all open minded. Guilt by the color or your skin or guilty because you are?
Bonnie Bedichek, their only small town reporter and editor of their newspaper was a thorn in his side from the start but sometimes someone that is not close to the situation and is looking from the outside in might set off a spark that will ignite in you and keep you and Sam on the run until the case is solved. Author Terry Shames delivers a prequel that is so far superior, so outstanding which explains why Sam Craddock and the entire series is my pick for outstanding series and book for 2017. Just reviews will give this title as Starred review when posted.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine