A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary by Terry Shames

County of Offenses

Jarrett (Fictional) 

Character Charges

Kidnapping? Murder?
All just a big misunderstanding?
We’re not telling this time.

Known Gang Affiliations

Seventh Street Books
Prometheus Books

Date of Offense

April 23, 2009

Arresting Officer

William Dylan Powell 

Macavity Award-winning author Terry Shames is firing on all cylinders with her Samuel Craddock mysteries (check out my review of A Killing at Cotton Hill). And this latest installment certainly did not disappoint. In her latest work, resident good neighbor and friend-to-many Loretta Singletary just up and goes missing one day. No heads-up. No asking anyone to watch the house. No bringing-of-baked goods over to Chief’s Craddock’s house or even getting together with the Ladies’ Circle.

The situation goes from perplexing to panicky as the hunt for Loretta develops, and Craddock learns that she’d been using an online dating site that targets seniors. Craddock is worried. Loretta left dishes in the sink, and she would NEVER do that. Loretta’s family is worried. Everyone is worried, and it only gets worse when a woman in a neighboring town, a woman who’d been using the same website, also turns up missing. And then dead.

The race is on and the stakes are high as Craddock and his deputies rack their brains to save poor Loretta from whatever mysterious trouble that’s befallen her. This is more than just another case for Craddock; she’s his friend. And, Jarrett Creek being a small town, everyone feels invested in the mystery. Add on a number of fun subplots, including a contentious battle between local churches regarding the Jarrett Creek Goat Rodeo and a rowdy puppy, and you have a tense and compelling plate of down-home mystery.

Shames has the ability to shape the reader’s experience and emotions like a master saddler working leather. In my mind, her books aren’t cozies. But their sense of small-town community and homespun Texas charm fit the reader like a comfortably worn-in pair of Wranglers. Readers feel like they’re a part of Jarrett Creek and its slower pace of life. And, at the same time, she consistently opens these books with a compelling mystery that hits you in the face like a glass of iced tea (sweetened, of course).

A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary is also an interesting exploration of online dating for seniors (or for anyone, for that matter). Online dating has changed the dating experience, and its potential, for so many people in every stage of life. And yet, like anything involving affairs of the heart, it’s scary. And sketchy stuff happens. In fact, Shames is on trend with the crime. In 2017, the FBI reported that online dating scams were on the rise with almost 15,000 people the previous year being swindled out of money totaling more than $200M. And those are just scams, not the other, more dangerous and depressing, things that can result from a Swipe Right Gone Wrong.

Also, and I mentioned this in my last review of a Shames book, one thing I always appreciate about these stories is just the character of Chief Craddock himself.

Craddock isn’t a Jack Taylor, Sam Spade or Dave Robicheaux type character. Those characters are classics, some of my favorites, and I’ve read and loved them all. But they’ve all got plenty of alpha-male, tough guy DNA. When these detectives are around, the mystery will be solved but also somebody, somewhere is getting a good, old-fashioned punch to the face. And that will be, if not part of the solution, certainly part of the action.

Craddock, on the other hand, must use his wits almost exclusively. He’s not fueled by alcohol or rage or a sense of the ends justifying the means. He’s got grit and a sense of justice, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. But as an older man he’s also sensible and prudent. He’s wise. He has to pace himself and doesn’t take the risks of law enforcement lightly. And he sports the kind of compassion, humility and context that comes with age. In this book, actually, Craddock’s old school ways serve as a nice device to have the world of online dating explained to readers from the ground up.

All said and done it’s a series installment that’s very worthy indeed, and leaves the reader anticipating what trouble will arise next in the tiny Texas hamlet of Jarrett Creek.

Verdict: Guilty of creating a satisfying, tense and compelling mystery that blends a sense of urgency with plenty of small-town Texas charm.

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