Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames

First Sentence:  I watch Loretta Singletary hurry up the steps to my house.
Dora Lee Parjeter wasn’t particularly well liked by her neighbors or her estranged daughter, but that’s no reason to kill her.  When the less-than-conscientious chief of police, who also happens to be the town drunk, immediately arrests Dora’s live-on grandson, Samuel remembers that Dora claimed someone was spying on her, and wants to be certain the real killer is arrested.
Shames has a delightful voice.  She brings her characters to life and perfectly captures life in a small town.  No matter which state someone may be from, anyone from a small town will easily recognize the characters and traits, good and bad, of the characters, including cats…”They are careful to keep their priorities straight.  Feed me, give me a warm dry place to sleep, pet me when I tell you to, then leave me to my own devices.”
Samuel Craddock is a wonderful protagonist; intelligent and capable.  He is very likable, but with just a hint of an edge that keeps him from being a bit too perfect.  I particularly appreciated that he is still grieving for his wife and not looking for a new partner, and the way Shames included that relationship in the explanation as to why a small-town sheriff would have an extremely valuable art collection.
The flow is very; one is never tempted to put the book down. The plot is well done with plenty of suspects, a couple of good red herrings and, unfortunately, one large coincidence.  This is perfect a perfect book for those who like they’re mysteries “squeaky clean,” but don’t mistake it for a cozy.  It is a true traditional mystery and, by no means, insipid or twee.    
A Killing at Cotton Hill” is a very well-done mystery with a solid plot and excellent characters.  There is enough edge to keep the story realistic and compelling.

A KILLING AT COTTON HILL (Trad. Mys-Samuel Craddock-Texas-Contemporary) – VG
Shames, Terry – 1st in series
Seventh Street Books – July 2013

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