Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Last Death of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames



published 2014


Last Death of Jack Harbin



[Narrator Samuel Craddock is going to the High School football game in his town]


Taylor is as excited as a teenager when she stops by my house to pick me up Friday night. She bounces out of the car wearing a blue jean skirt and a green and gold T-shirt, Jarrett Creek school colors. She has scared up her old cheerleader pom-poms, and waves them around with a jaunty dance…

As soon as we get settled in the stands, people Taylor went to high school with swarm around us. Everyone is chattering, catching up on old times. I don’t see Woody and Laurel and I wonder why, since they usually come to the games. I wonder who is going to bring Jack Harbin. Bob always had him here early and they sat right behind the team bench. Bob would keep up a running commentary, and when he ran out of steam, there was always somebody there to pick up where he left off.

It’s Walter Dunn who wheels Jack down in front… you’d get cited for a fire hazard in some stadiums if the wheelchair blocked the aisle, but Panther stadium is made out of local stone. It was built as a WPA project, and is unburnable.

I leave Taylor to her gaggle of friends and go down to spend some time with Jack and his posse. There’s no drinking in the stadium, but they’re passing around a flask, and I doubt anybody would object.

 
observations: I love this series of crime books, I find them mesmerizing and far above the usual run-of-the-mill small town mystery. Samuel Craddock is a retired police chief in Jarrett Creek in Texas, and he knows everybody. An unlikely amount of crime is going to occur in this town, but readers are not complaining.

In this one, there’s obviously something bad going on. Jack, above, is a veteran who was badly injured in the Gulf War, and was looked after by his father Bob. First the father dies, and then things get worse…

There is an admirable amount of plotting in these books – Terry Shames is obviously up for a Craddock series, and I think many authors would have made at least two books from the contents of this one: there is a religious cult, problems for vets trying to cope with their injuries, a lot about high school football, and a gambling strand too. It ends with a very tense stand-off.

Shames has a lovely way with words – in an earlier meeting with Taylor, Craddock says
We’re both smiling, enjoying the memories dancing around in the kitchen.
And there’s a rare and kind thought about Dottie, a nurse, who sees that her patient has soft porn magazines and tries to stay neutral and not disapprove:
Dottie is a devout churchgoer and she’s taken to heart the adage not to cast stones.
I’ve said before that it’s hard to remember that Terry Shames is a woman – I find her so convincing with this male voice. I love these books and hope there will be many more.

The denim skirt could be the one in the entry a couple of days ago....

The photo, from the US National Archives, shows spectators at a High School football game in Portland Oregon – wetter and colder than the game above in Texas.

For reviews of the other books by Terry Shames, click on the tab below. Col reviewed this book over at his Criminal Library a few months back.












11 comments:

  1. It's been a day or two since I've expressed some enthusiasm for any of your recent books, but today's the day - even if I have already read it! Cheers for the link. I ought to pull my finger out and get to the fourth soon.
    I'm going to try this one on my wife and see what she thinks.

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    1. This series is definitely our best meeting point!

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  2. There's something about that look at small-town life and the people who live it is really fascinating isn't it, Moira? It takes skill to make a series about a small town credible (thus avoiding the Cabot Cove Syndrome). But when it works, it works brilliantly. Glad you enjoyed this one so well.

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    1. Margot, I can see myself following this series for a long time - I certainly hope Terry Shames will carry on writing them.

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  3. I am ambivalent about continuing this series. I like the main character, but I have so many books to read... and it is told in present tense. It will probably end up that I read them as they appear to me serendipitously... I am glad you are enjoying it so much.

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    1. Yes if you don't like present tense these are not the books for you. But perhaps if they appear at the booksale...

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    2. I can always hope for that. Especially if book 4 is already out, maybe #2 or #3 would be there.

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  4. Right, definitely going to try this series, you've won me over - thanks Moira.

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    1. Do give it a go, Sergio - it's one of the better series I think.

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  5. Sounds good, but I'd have to get over the barrier of the present tense, which I really don't like in a novel.

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    1. I do understand - you are like Tracy above - though for me present tense annoys me less in a murder story than in a straight novel. I'll have to try to work out why that is.

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