Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Loewenstein

Laurie Loewenstein's first Dust Bowl Mystery, Death of a Rainmaker, was the most evocative book I've read since Larry D. Sweazy's last Marjorie Trumaine mystery, See Also Proof. The author says she was inspired by Timothy Egan's nonfiction book, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl, and you can truly see that in all of the detailed description.

In the 1930s in Jackson County, Oklahoma, they've gone over 240 days with no rain. In desperation, a local businessman's group hires an itinerant rainmaker, Roland Coombs, who boasts in less than five days they should have rain. But, the day after his show with TNT and blasting powder, Coombs is found dead in an alley after a terrible dust storm. It's up to Sheriff Temple Jennings to discover who would want to kill a stranger in town.

Temple has all kinds of trouble on  his hands, not just a murder case. Despite his hatred of that aspect of his job, it's his sworn duty to attend all farm foreclosures. For the first time in his career, he has to campaign for his job because a local businessman is running against him. Then there are the minor crimes, peeping Toms, drunks. And, Temple's wife, Etha, doesn't make his current job any easier. She misses their dead son, and finds a young man, Carmine DiNapoli, who is working for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Carmine reminds her of their son, and when Temple arrests him for the murder of Coombs, Etha objects. She takes the young prisoner under her wing, and determines to find the real killer.

It sounds so trite to say Death of a Rainmaker brings the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma to life. Loewenstein uses details of dust storms, foreclosures, illnesses to create an atmospheric story involving the day-to-day lives of the people. There are details about the daily life of a sheriff and his wife, the cook for the prisoners, who even have a small cell in their kitchen. And, the relationship between Temple and Etha reflects a long marriage that has dealt with the death of a child, a move, politics, and a failing community.

If you appreciate all the details of Oklahoma ranch life in Donis Casey's Alafair Tucker mysteries, or the gritty details of farm life in the 1960s in North Dakota in Sweazy's series, you'll want to pick up the first in Loewenstein's new series, Death of a Rainmaker.

Laurie Loewenstein's website is

Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Loewenstein. Kaylie Jones Books/Akashic Books, 2018. ISBN 9781617756795 (hardcover), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


SandyG265 said...

Another book for my TBR list. FYI - all the verifying to post a comment is getting annoying. I had to go through 4 sets of pictures

Lesa said...

Sandy, I find it annoying, too. I have to go through them as well, and it's my blog! However, I read a post on another blog yesterday from the Administrator and he was complaining about all the spam they were getting on the blog. He has to delete it all. If spammers weren't around, it would be a lot easier for all of us.

I'll take a look at the administration page. I don't know if there's anything I can do about the verification since I even have to do it.

Carol N Wong said...

Hi Lesa,
I won that book and waiting for it to come in. Thank you for that review. Will take a peek at his website. I thought it was my mild cognitive impairment that causes me to look at so many sets of pictures to get verified. Don't feel o bad now!

laurie loewenstein said...

Thanks so much for this thoughtful review. Bigger thanks for feeding my hunger for mystery books. Lots of what-to-read title on my list now!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Laurie! Terrific book!

Lesa said...

Thanks for sticking with it, Carol. It's a pain, but I can'f find a way to change it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy Casey's series so I'll add Death of a Rainmaker to my TBR list and check to see if our library purchasing it.
Thank you.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Becuase of this review I put a hold on the book at my local library as you got me reading something that normally I would never read. It finally came in. I spent two afternoons at UTD lost in the world of the book. Enjoyed it tremendously. My review will run this coming Tuesday. Thank you, as always, Lesa.

Lesa said...

Kevin, You couldn't have said anything nicer to me than you read something you normally wouldn't read, and enjoyed it, thanks to a review. Thank you, so much! I'll look forward to your review!