An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock: A Samuel Craddock Mystery Prequel

Seventh St: Prometheus. Jan. 2017. 270p. ISBN 9781633882096. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781633882102. M
Despite being a prequel, this latest episode in the series, after The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake, winds back the clock to look at how now-retired Texas lawman Samuel Craddock became the moral man he is today. A fire that's soon determined to be arson in an area of Jarrett Creek known as "Darktown"—where all the black residents live—claims the lives of five young people and, owing to jurisdictional issues, the Texas Highway Patrol takes control of the case, much to Craddock's dismay. Craddock takes an instant dislike to the man in charge, patrolman John Sutherland, and the feeling is mutual. Sutherland is quick to blame the fire on Truly Bennett, a young black man who Craddock is positive isn't involved. But for Sutherland, skin color trumps facts and the case is as good as closed. Now Craddock is faced with a choice: Does he go along with Sutherland's conclusion or take a stand and fight for the rights of someone he believes is innocent? Readers familiar with the series may guess Craddock's ultimate choice (or will they?), but Shames skillfully makes the decision less about one man wrestling with his conscience and more about the racism that runs rampant in towns like Jarrett Creek.
VERDICT Made even more pressing in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the current political climate, Shames presents an important exploration of the clash between personal conviction and cultural expectations, even when those assumptions are repugnant.
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