Award-winning author Terry Shames writes the bestselling Samuel Craddock series, set in small-town Texas. A Killing at Cotton Hill won the Macavity for Best First Mystery, 2013. The Last Death of Jack Harbin was a Macavity finalist for Best Mystery, 2014, and was named a top ten mystery of 2014 by Library Journal. Mystery People named Shames one of the top five Texas mystery writers of 2015. Her fifth Craddock mystery, The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake is an RT Bookreviews Top Pick. Learn more about Terry and her books at her website.
In The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake, book five of the Samuel Craddock mystery series, Samuel’s good friend and neighbor Jenny Sandstone has promised to cook a meal for a friend. As anyone who has read any of the books knows, Jenny is no cook. She throws herself on Samuel’s mercy, begging him to teach her how to cook just one decent dish. His advice is to make beef stew. One Saturday morning they set off for the Quick Mart to buy the ingredients. Once in the store, Samuel starts with the basics:
She laughs. “Don’t be a smart aleck.”
We stop first at the meat section. I select a package of stew meat and toss it into the cart.
“How do you know how much to buy?” she says.
“For two people, you buy about a pound of meat if you want leftovers, less if you don’t.”
She looks at the packet of meat as if it might leap up and smack her in the face. “You’ve got a little bit more than a pound there.”
This may be harder than I thought. I explain that it isn’t an exact science. “If you have a recipe, you can fudge here and there. The way I make beef stew doesn’t need a recipe.”
He takes her through the store and instructs her to buy an onion, a bell pepper, carrots, potatoes, a can of tomatoes, and a can of beef broth. It doesn’t get anymore basic than that. Seeing all the ingredients, Jenny almost chickens out, but Samuel won’t let her. Back home, she is quiet and grim. “I’d rather prosecute an axe murderer than do this again,” she says.
As the reader might imagine, Samuel ends up doing most of the work, which is a lot harder than usual because he has to answer a bunch of questions like “How come you peel the potatoes and carrots, but not the bell pepper?” He also has to go back to his house to get a few herbs and a clove of garlic. But eventually it’s done, and he leaves her with the final instruction to call him if she has more problems.
I liked writing this funny interlude as a respite from the grim nature of the book. Here’s the recipe that I got from my mother a loooong time ago:
1 pound stew meat
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pint water
1 pint beef broth
1 cup carrots, sliced
2 cups potatoes, in chunks
1 chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 16-oz can tomatoes
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
In large pot, brown beef in oil. Add water and broth and simmer for one hour. Add all other ingredients and cook another half hour. You may also add 1 cup green beans or 1/2 cup peas.
If you’ve never read any of the Samuel Craddock mysteries, the first book in the series, A Killing at Cotton Hill, will be a Kindle Daily Deal tomorrow only for $2.99.
The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake
Nonie Blake is back home from a mental institution where she has spent the last twenty years, and people in Jarrett Creek are worried. Maybe too worried, for within a week of her return, Nonie is murdered.
Chief Samuel Craddock thinks the only possible suspects are members of her tight-lipped family. Ever since Nonie tried to kill her sister when she was fourteen and was sent away to the institution, the family has kept to itself.
Clues are scarce and Craddock is stumped. So he checks with therapists at the mental hospital to see whether they can add anything useful to his investigation. But he discovers that she has not been there for ten years. Now Craddock has to find out where Nonie has been all this time.
Soon Craddock finds himself dealing not only with murder, but layers of deception and secrets, and in the midst of it all—a new deputy, one Maria Trevino, sent by the sheriff to beef up security in the small Texas town.