A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames

a-killing-at-cotton-hill-by-terry-shamesA Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames
Series: Samuel Craddock Mystery #1
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Jarrett Creek, Texas
Published by Seventh Street Books, 2013
E-book, purchased
231 pages
Grade: A-
Synopsis: The chief of police of Jarrett Creek, Texas, doubles as the town drunk. So when Dora Lee Parjeter is murdered, her old friend and former police chief Samuel Craddock steps in. He discovers that a lot of people had it in for Dora Lee. The conniving rascals on the farm next door want her land for nefarious purposes; her estranged daughter could be seeking vengeance; her grandson wants money for art school; and then there’s that stranger Dora Lee claimed was spying on her. Does Craddock still have what it takes to find the killer? In this debut novel, the strong, compelling voice of Samuel Craddock illuminates the grandeur and loneliness of the central Texas landscape and reveals the human foibles of the residents in a small Texas town-their pettiness and generosity, their secret vices and true virtues.

The two highway patrolmen are wearing their hats and sunglasses like they think a TV crew is going to come barreling up any second and they want to be sure they look the part.


One problem with being a widower is that old women have us outnumbered. Right after Jeanne died I was scandalized and soon terrified at how quickly women started sniffing around. I’m no Gregory Peck.

Initial impressions

  • This is the type of mystery I really enjoy reading. Interesting characters, a strong protagonist with a moral compass and a good mystery. It’s one of my favorite books of the year!

The story

  • Samuel Craddock is the former Chief of Police of the small town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. His wife died of cancer a year ago. He misses her a lot and doesn’t have too much to do other than spend a lot of time with his small herd of cattle.
  • When a lifelong friend–Dora Lee–is murdered he feels the need to find out what he can about what happened.
  • The current police chief–Rodell Skinner–is no friend of Samuel’s. He was appointed to the position by a relative and is a drunkard who takes the easy way out.
  • Rodell is convinced Dora Lee’s grandson Greg killed her, but Samuel isn’t so sure. There are plenty of other suspects around.
  • Samuel convinces the best lawyer in town to take Greg’s case and she convinces Samuel he needs to investigate the case.


  • Written in present tense, first person POV. Made the voice of Samuel Craddock really come through. I love the wry thoughts Samuel has about the world around him.
  • I like the cover. To me it has a rural vibe about it.
  • The small town Texas setting and lonely Texas countryside is really well done.
  • Samuel’s wife Jeanne got Samuel interested in modern art and they collected it during their marriage. They bought from unknown artists, but some of them have since become famous and their art collection is insured very well.
  • The art collection means a great deal to Samuel since it’s something Samuel and Jeanne shared and loved.
  • The plot gets more confusing when a fire starts at Samuel’s home. The house and Samuel’s art collection are saved, but the fire is arson and a painting was stolen.
  • Samuel is amazed when he sees the art Dora Lee’s grandson Greg is painting. He hasn’t had much training, but Samuel thinks he’s very talented. Of course, this makes one more reason Greg might be guilty–he wanted money so he could go away to art school.
  • Samuel is an honest man. I really like that and an author who writes a character like that.
  • A good mystery. Plenty of characters had motive and opportunity. I didn’t figure out for sure who had done it until the end.
  • Even though some characters are sympathetic that doesn’t keep them from being brought to justice.


  • None I can think of!

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I’m ready to read the next book in the series! I’m glad several books are already written.
  • So happy to find another new series and author to enjoy.


  • Macavity Award for Best First Mystery, 2013

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Terry Shames grew up in Texas, and has an abiding affection for the people she grew up with and the landscape and culture of the town that is the model for Jarrett Creek.
  • She graduated from the University of Texas and has an MA from San Francisco State University.
  • Terry now lives in Northern California with her husband, two terriers and a regal cat.

Reading Challenges

Author: Jan

I love to read--especially mysteries, science fiction and fantasy. I also love blogging, photography, gardening, playing Mah Jonng, reading with a cat on my lap, throwing a ball for a dog, creating cards to send to family and friends, reading book blogs, using my computer.

2 thoughts on “A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames”

  1. Oh this sounds good! It sounds like a complicated mystery but well done enough that it doesn’t get confusing. I’ll definitely have to look for this one!


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