A small-town chief of police acquires a dog en route to solving a vicious case of murder.
Samuel Craddock, who’s come out of retirement to run the local police department on a shoestring, finds his resources stretched when Margaret Wilkins reports her husband missing. Dr. Lewis Wilkins, last seen leaving the couple’s vacation home on Jarrett Creek Lake, told his wife he was going fishing. When Craddock interviews Dooley Phillips, a friend of Wilkins' who owns a local marina and claims to have no clue where he could be, Craddock thinks he’s lying. Craddock’s also uneasy over a number of cases of dognapped pets and the rumor that there’s a dogfighting ring in the area that may be using them as bait. He has to wonder if the rumor is true when Wilkins’ badly mauled body is discovered in the woods. At first it seems he was attacked by feral dogs, but dogs surely didn’t tie him up before they attacked. While searching the woods, Craddock stumbles upon a starving puppy whose mother he finds dead, and he goes from temporary dogsitter to devoted pet owner. He learns that Wilkins’ life was a complicated one. He lost a major malpractice suit that left his family in financial trouble. Both his children are angry with their parents, and his wife seems oddly indifferent to his fate. He never did any fishing, but he did own a cabin cruiser he won in a poker game that Dooley somehow never mentioned. When Craddock finally finds Wilkins’ missing vehicle, it contains a handgun and $200,000 in cash. Is the money from gambling on dogfights? Craddock’s one childhood experience at a dogfight has given him a visceral hatred for the cruelty involved. Although he’s warned that it’s dangerous to meddle, he continues to hunt for answers.
Shames has created an endearing hero with an old-fashioned sense of honor. Although his latest is less puzzling than its most recent predecessor (An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, 2017), it’s still an enjoyable, often disturbing read.