Wednesday, October 03, 2018
Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Loewenstein
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 https://laurieloewenstein.com
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.