The Last Death of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames

the-last-death-of-jack-harbin-by-terry-shamesThe Last Death of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames
Series: Samuel Craddock Mystery #2
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Jarrett Creek, Texas
Published by Seventh Street Books, 2014
Library book
253 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Right before the outbreak of the Gulf War, two eighteen-year-old football stars and best friends from Jarrett Creek, Texas, signed up for the army. But Woody Patterson was rejected and stayed home to marry the girl they both loved, while Jack Harbin came back from the war badly damaged. The men haven’t spoken since.

Just as they are about to reconcile, Jack is brutally murdered. With the chief of police out of commission, it’s up to trusted ex-chief Samuel Craddock to investigate. Against the backdrop of small-town loyalties and betrayals, Craddock discovers dark secrets of the past and present to solve the mystery of Jack’s death.

Town Café has all the charm of a cow barn. A big tin Quonset hut, it’s pockmarked on the outside, as if it was used for target practice in some past life. Bill Schroeder trucked it in about ten years ago and plopped it onto a lot near the railroad tracks. The place has knotty pine walls decorated with random signs advertising beer and farm equipment. Christmas lights are strung all over the place, year round. But the food is good.

Initial impressions

  • The characters, mystery and setting are so well done. I totally recommend this series!

The Story

  • Jack Harbin is an Army veteran who was in the Gulf War. He lost a leg and his sight. He was a star quarterback in high school in Jarrett Creek and still goes to all the games. He will talk football any day of the week and usually holds court at the Town Café. He’s sometimes hard to get along with, but football is always a favorite topic in Jarrett Creek, Texas.
  • When first Jack’s father dies and then Jack dies Samuel Craddock has to step in and figure out what’s going on.


  • I really like this series. Samuel Craddock the protagonist of these books is someone I’d like to know.
  • This is written in first person, present tense–not something I usually like that well, but it works for this series.
  • This is practically a police procedural!
  • I like the way Ms. Shames portrays the small town life in rural Texas. I’ve lived in small rural towns in the west and this portrayal seems true-to-life. . . lots of gossip, everyone knowing at least a few things about their neighbors, people willing to pitch in and help when someone needs it, people making snap judgements about others and just like anywhere many shades of gray.
  • There’s a lot going on under the surface in this book. Some of the story goes back to Jack Harbin’s high school days, to his military days. And then what these things mean to the present day.


  • I had a pretty good idea about the mystery, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the book.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I’m happy there are five books in this series so far. I want to read the next book soon!


  • A Library Journal Best Book of 2014

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.

4 thoughts on “The Last Death of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames”

  1. This sounds good! I’m not a big fan of the present tense either but sometimes I find a book that’s good enough that I forget about that. This sounds like one of those! I also really enjoy when the detective is a character that I actually like. So often it seems like police procedural type books are filled with characters that are unlikable and it’s nice to have that not be the case.


  2. Oh, you caught my attention! I like small town procedurals and mysteries. The only thing I’m not sure about is first person, present tense. My least favorite POV, but maybe it’ll work here. Thanks for sharing this. Going on my to-look-for list.


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