The Necessary Murder of Nonie BlakeAfter months of living in Jarrett Creek, I still wake up startled, fearful that Seth will be coming out of the bathroom frowning, looking for something to criticize. I think Frasier has the same problem, because sometimes he stares toward the door of the bedroom, ears pricked forward on high alert. Eventually we’ll both relax.

I’m usually at my gallery early—long before a class starts or the gallery is open for business. This morning I unlock the front door at 7:30. Although it’s already warm outside, it’s nice and cool in here. The gallery used to be a clothing store before it closed down in the sixties, which means the space was not broken up with walls. There’s a tiny office and a small power room, which serves my purposes. The old linoleum, still in good shape, is perfect for an art facility. And Frasier likes it because it’s cool when he lies down on it while I work.

I have two hours to paint before the 10:00 class. I’ve just begun a painting of a field of wildflowers. Watercolor is my favorite medium. I love the ethereal effect of the colors and the way watercolor can surprise you. We had a beautiful spring and I’m working from a photo I took in April. I’ve put down the washes for the general areas of the paintings, and today I’ll tackle the sky, a clump of trees on the horizon, and an old barn.

When I was married to Seth, the only thing that kept me from unraveling was being able to disappear into my studio to paint. I’ve long accepted that I’m too timid to be a great artist. The most daring work I do is when the color runs or blots and I have to find a way to incorporate the accident into the painting.

I don’t care that much for modern or abstract art. My art appreciation ends with the impressionists. I like representational art. I love to discover a Texas artist who renders cactus and bluebonnets and scrub brush in a way that makes me feel I could step into the scene.

Thinking of modern art takes my thoughts to Samuel Craddock. I can tell he doesn’t like what I paint or the art that I sell in my gallery. I wish I could find a way to tell him that it’s okay. I know he wants to please me–something I haven’t experienced in a long time.

My ten o’clock class is a beginning watercolor class. Everyone seemed surprised that so many people in a small town like Jarrett Creek signed up for classes. I wasn’t surprised. People like to create things. It’s in our DNA. I enjoy helping budding artists discover how to create things that please them.

I doubt that I’ll ever discover someone who will set the art world on fire, as Samuel did a while back, but at least one person startled me with talent I never suspected. Loretta Singletary is a gossipy old woman. She’s a good friend of Samuel’s, and he says she has a good heart, but I would not have discovered that for myself. It always seems to me that she’s on the lookout for juicy tidbits to pass along. But there’s no question that she has more talent than any student I’ve taught. Maybe the same sharp eye she has for her neighbors’ doings gives her a discerning eye for observing the world. And she’s able to translate that onto the paper.

I’m a hands-on teacher, and two hours passes quickly as I move from one to another of the eight students.

At lunch I eat the salad I brought from home. Sometimes I wish I had never become a vegetarian. It would be so much easier to slap together a turkey sandwich. I admit I became a vegetarian to annoy Seth, at the urging of my best friend Kitty. Former best friend I should say. She was always sniping about Seth, telling me I should leave him, but after I finally did, she became aloof. I was so lonesome after I first moved here that I tried calling her one night, but she clearly didn’t want to talk to me. Maybe she thinks I don’t deserve happiness. I sometimes think so, too.

The afternoon flies by with another class and then a visit from an eighth grade art class. Before I know it, I’m packing up my supplies, collecting Frasier, and heading home. I’m tired and yearn to have the evening to myself, but Samuel is taking me out for a meal. Maybe tonight will be the night I make my confession. He thinks I left Seth because Seth was abusive. It’s not true. I’m afraid to tell him the truth because I’m afraid he will lose his regard for me. But until I tell him the truth, I won’t feel like I can really get close to Samuel.


The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake is the fifth book in the Samuel Craddock mystery series, published by Seventh Street Books, January 2016.

All comments are welcomed.

About the author
Terry Shames writes the award-winning best-selling Samuel Craddock series, set in the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. A Killing at Cotton Hill was a finalist for numerous awards and won the Macavity for Best First Mystery, 2013. The Last Death of Jack Harbin was a Macavity finalist for Best Mystery, 2014 and was named one of the top ten mysteries of 2014 by Library Journal and top five of 2014 by MysteryPeople. Her fifth Craddock mystery, The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake launches January 2016.

Raised in Texas and a University of Texas alum, Terry lives in Berkeley, CA. She is president of the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and of International Thriller Writers. Visit her at www.terryshames.com to see photos and to find out about upcoming events.

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