A PLACE CALLED RAINWATER
The Midwest in the 1920s is the setting for this romantic melodrama featuring the spunky, independent little sister of Julie Jones, the heroine of another Garlock novel, The Edge of Town. Jill Jones has recently come from Missouri to the boomtown of Rainwater, Okla., to help her ailing Aunt Justine run her hotel, a former house of ill repute. Shortly after her arrival, her flirtatious childhood friend and self-appointed protector, Thad Taylor, shows up and sweet-talks his way into a job. He is wary of the attention Jill is receiving from some of the other men in town, including Hunter Westfall, a womanizing oil tycoon, and Lloyd Madison, a creepy lawyer with "the mark of the devil" on his face and a longstanding vendetta against Justine. There are scads of supporting characters, including Radna, Justine's devoted mixed-race housekeeper, and Laura Hopper, an attractive young widow who catches Westfall's eye. Things turn grim when Thad and Jill discover the remains of a badly mutilated young woman buried in the sand. The detailed depiction of the Oklahoma oil town lends an air of authenticity, as does the colorful (if at times overdone) period slang. Garlock is most entertaining when she focuses on the love affairs percolating among the cast members, but the murder-mystery subplot feels out of place and the identity of the killer is obvious from the beginning. Overproduction may be cramping Garlock's style—her last novel, High on a Hill, came out in June of this year. (Jan. 2)
Forecast:Garlock's habit of reintroducing familiar characters is a handy tool for hooking readers, and should keep fans on board despite the lapses of her latest.
Release date: 01/01/2003