The Last Death of Jack HarbinToday I’m doing a day in the life of Samuel Craddock’s “down the street” neighbor, Loretta Singletary. Some people have told me they don’t like Loretta because she’s a gossip. But I’m very fond of her and maybe you’ll feel the same way when you get to know her better.


When I’m 80, I plan to stay in bed late every day, drinking coffee and reading, but until then I have too much to do! This morning I’m up at 5 o’clock baking Christmas cookies for the Methodist Church Christmas party tonight. If I’m going to take cookies over to the church by 2 o’clock, I have to get started.

The dough rested in the refrigerator overnight and while it comes to room temperature I sit down to write my son Gary an email. I know it’s a compliment that Gary thinks I’m sharp enough to learn how to use a computer, but every time I open it to send an email I feel as if I’m walking out onto thin ice. If I hit the wrong key, I can end up swimming below the surface, looking for a way to get back on top—meanwhile, being frozen out by all the things I don’t know. I tried to tell Gary that, but he said I was being dramatic.

This morning the computer smiles on me and I hear the little swooshing sound of the letter going off. But after I send it I realize the computer changed a couple of my words so that I sound like a crazy woman. Who would ever say something like, “I wash you and your family were already here.” But that’s what the letter says. I expect he’ll know what I mean.

When the first batch of cookies is in the oven, I run outside to do a little pruning. It’s that time of year and I try to do some every day. It’s my least favorite gardening activity, because I always imagine that it hurts the plant. Silly, I know, but there you are.

I’ve just taken the first batch of sugar cookies out of the oven when the phone rings. It’s 9 o’clock sharp, so I expect it’s Becky, making sure I’m up and baking. I don’t know why she volunteered to be in charge of the Christmas party. She’s the most nervous person I ever met. But it isn’t Becky on the phone, it’s Mary Ann Beasly with the news that Mrs. Summerfield, who lives next door to Samuel Craddock, took sick in the night and had to go to the hospital in Bobtail. They said it was nothing serious, but she’s almost 100, so I don’t know how they can be so sure. Mary Ann is in charge of the phone tree to get a prayer circle going. I don’t have time for this, but then I think, what will it be like when I’m that old—would I want some prissy woman say she doesn’t have time to pray for me?

I make myself sit down at the table and bow my head, hoping God doesn’t mind if I cut it short. Then I call the two ladies who come after me on the phone tree. I guess God heard my prayer because neither of them is home and I can leave a message on their machine and don’t have to talk to them.

While the next batch of cookies bakes, I decorate the first batch—little angels and wreaths. After a while I take a few minutes out to run some cookies down to Samuel’s house. If he’d come to the church party, I wouldn’t have to carry them over to him, but he’s stubborn like that. He says he doesn’t have any use for Christmas church parties. I need to tell him about Mrs. Summerfield, too, but his truck is gone and there’s no answer at the door. I set the plate of cookies inside. I’ll call him later.

The party starts at 6, and I’m in the rec room by 5:30 to help arrange the refreshments. Keeping busy is important when you’ve been a widow as long as I have. Hard to believe that Charlie has been gone for twelve years. Christmas is the hardest time and I’m blessed that my boys will be visiting me with their wives and sons. It would be fun to have a little granddaughter, but I’m thankful for those sweet boys.

I hear people arriving, the beautiful chatter of children, the voices of their parents trying to hold down their excitement. It’s time to go into the church service. Things will be lively for the next two hours. I’ll be glad to get into bed tonight.

You can read more about Loretta in The Last Death of Jack Harbin, the second book in the “Samuel Craddock” mystery series, published by Seventh Street Books. The first book in the series is A Killing at Cotton Hill . Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Book description of The Last Death of Jack Harbin
Investigating the brutal murder of a Gulf War veteran, Samuel Craddock uncovers a dark tale of greed and jealousy that extends into the past, and well beyond the borders of the small town of Jarrett Creek.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on January 21, and you will be entered to win a copy of The Last Death of Jack Harbin. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Terry Shames is the best-selling author of A Killing at Cotton Hill and The Last Death of Jack Harbin, Seventh Street Books. Her books are set in small-town Texas and feature ex-chief of police Samuel Craddock. Terry lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two rowdy terriers. She is Vice President of Norcal Sisters in Crime and on the board of MWA Norcal. For more information, please visit her website:

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