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When the Jarrett Creek Fire Department is called to douse a blaze on the outskirts of town, they discover a grisly scene: five black young people have been murdered. Newly elected Chief of Police Samuel Craddock, just back from a stint in the Air Force, finds himself an outsider in the investigation headed by the Texas Highway Patrol. He takes an immediate dislike to John Sutherland, a racist trooper.

Craddock’s fears are realized when Sutherland arrests Truly Bennett, a young black man whom Craddock knows and respects. Sutherland cites dubious evidence that points to Bennett, and Craddock uncovers facts leading in another direction. When Sutherland refuses to relent, Craddock is faced with a choice that will define him as a lawman—either let the highway patrol have its way, or take on a separate investigation himself.

Although his choice to investigate puts both Craddock and his family in danger, he perseveres. In the process, he learns something about himself and the limits of law enforcement in Jarrett Creek.


“Shames’s superior sixth Samuel Craddock mystery…a prequel set possibly during the early 1970s, explores a significant case at the start of the retired police chief’s career. Skilled depictions of the lawman’s formative choices and emotions enhance a timely story with resonance in the era of Black Lives Matter.”
Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW

“The sixth book featuring Samuel Craddock, the amiable and savvy police chief in the Texan town of Jarrett Creek, takes readers back to the 1980s and the very young Samuel’s first days on the job…. In resolving the case, the amiable and savvy side of Chief Craddock begins to emerge to the delight of readers.”
Toronto Star


Terry Shames is the author of A KILLING AT COTTON HILL, THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN, DEAD BROKE IN JARRETT CREEK, A DEADLY AFFAIR AT BOBTAIL RIDGE, and THE NECESSARY MURDER OF NONIE BLAKE, the first five Samuel Craddock mysteries. She is the coeditor of FIRE IN THE HILLS, a book of stories, poems, and photographs about the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. She grew up in Texas and continues to be fascinated by the convoluted loyalties and betrayals of the small town where her grandfather was the mayor. Terry is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

To learn more about Terry, please visit her website.

Photography credit: Margaretta K. Mitchell

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