“An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock” – Murder and prejudice in a small Texas town

I loved the rural Texas setting. I grew up among rural people in a different state, but I recognized many of the attitudes on display. The small-town politics, racism and cultural mistrust seemed very real to me, and I liked that Samuel Craddock, the rookie police chief, was willing to fight his way through that and see some measure of justice done. Craddock is a decent man in a tough spot, and ably navigates the world of prejudice and racism around him in an effort to do what is right. His approach, quiet and purposeful, seems realistic to me.

I would classify this book as a police procedural. The plot does not depend on cerebral clue parsing. Instead, the outcome depends more on a hard-working cop doing what a good cop must do, poke and pry and push until the truth shakes out. Nor does this story wrap everything up in a neat little bow. The ending feels as real as the crime itself, and the protagonist is keenly aware of what he can, and can’t accomplish.

Terry Shames also pulls off the very neat trick of first person, present tense narration — something that usually hits me like a cheese-grater on my cerebellum, but which absolutely works here.

This book is the newest in a series, but it is a flashback to the protagonist’s early days as police chief in a tiny Texas town. I have not read the previous entries in the series, so I can’t really speak to what this flashback reveals about Craddock and the people around him. I am sure many of the characters met here play roles in other books. I also am sure I want to check out the other books in the series. Having met the younger Craddock and read about him, I am very interested to see what he becomes.

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