Monday, September 23, 2013

My problem with writing reviews. Except this one.

I have a problem: I don't like writing book reviews.

It's not a huge problem, I agree, as far as problems go. But as a writer, and as someone who maintains a blog, it's there nonetheless.

First, I have a hard time imagining anyone cares whether I like a book or not. If I'm right about that, then I'm wasting my time writing a review. I don't like wasting my own time. I do hope my opinion counts just a little, to a few people, and if nothing else my posting a book's cover and synopsis might allow people to check the book out for themselves.

Second, I don't like trying to find nice things to say about a book if I didn't really like it. I can do so if necessary, but I don't want to because it's misleading (assuming point one, above, doesn't apply and someone's paying attention). Now, this is a problem only when I feel obliged to write a book review (say if the President or the Dalai Lama asked me to) so I've pretty much eliminated it by writing only reviews when I want, and about books I like. Put another way, if I read a book and don't like it, you won't see it here.

And a book review is why we're all here today. This one's a little funny because under normal circumstances I might not actually have read this book, let alone liked it. It's set in Texas (get plenty of that already) and is sort of a "cozy" mystery (traditional definition would be something along the liens of  "‘gentle’ books… no graphic violence, no profanity, and no explicit sex"), although somehow it doesn't fit entirely into that slot. Nothing wrong with those things, I've just been leaning towards international spy stories lately.

[Quick disclaimed: the author, Terry Shames, has become a friend because her book is published by Seventh Street Press, my own publisher. But see aforementioned discussion about my policy of simply not reviewing a book if I don't like it. Additionally, Terry didn't ask for this review, I'm posting it because I loved her book. So there.]

So, here's the book cover, which I think is very cool:

Synopsis of the book (taken from Amazon):

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.

My opinion:

I read this book in three days, over a very busy weekend. I chose to read it rather than watch sports yesterday, just so I could finish it and find out whodunnit.

So, yes, it's a good mystery, the kind that even half-way through you're thinking, "I have no clue who the killer is." Additionally, all suspects seem equally plausible, I didn't feel like any were thrown in just to confuse the reader and that takes some pretty nifty writing. And you read on, because you really do want to know what happened and why.

Which brings me to the writing style: it's so easy, so flowing, that you will hit that half-way point before you know it. The plot is easy to follow, she doesn't get bogged down with narrative description, and the dialogue is spot on.

Best of all, for me, was the cast of characters. The central figure, Samuel Craddock, is utterly original and immensely likeable, which is key for a mystery. And Terry has done a great job with all her characters, who are real, interesting, original, and layered. It's absolutely, the kind of book that cries out to be a series, which it will be (this was the first). A really, really, good book and I highly recommend it.


  1. Amazon also lists a forthcoming book, The Last Death of Jack Harbin: A Samuel Craddock Mystery, to be released in January, 2014.

  2. And I suspect it will be the second finest novel released on that date... ;)

  3. Thanks Mark! I've got this one on my nightstand and your review just bumped it up a couple of slots :) Sounds good.

  4. I have the same problem. Well, actually I like writing reviews, but I don't like writing them unless I LOVED the book. Writer friends want reviews even if they're lukewarm.

    On another note, it was wonderful meeting you at Evening with the Authors. I cannot wait to read your novel.

  5. Kris and TGITJD, sorry for the delayed response, I was out of country on a secret mission in the jungles of Borneo, with limited internet access. :) But thanks for posting. Kris, you'll enjoy it, and TGITJD I know who you are, and enjoyed meeting you, too. :)


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