cover image Funeral Train: A Dust Bowl Mystery

Funeral Train: A Dust Bowl Mystery

Laurie Loewenstein. Akashic/Jones, $17.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-63614-052-0

Set in 1935, “smack in the crosshairs of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl,” Loewenstein’s excellent sequel to 2018’s Death of a Rainmaker continues the saga of life in the small town of Vermillion, Okla. Sheriff Temple Jennings is used to dealing with balky stray cows and occasional moonshiners. Then his comfortable routine is shattered by a passenger train derailment that turns out to have been caused by sabotage. Eccentric but shrewd railroad detective Claude Steele is soon on the scene to figure out who could have been angry and mean enough to do such a thing. Meanwhile, Temple has to solve the murder of Ruthie-Jo Mitchem, “who made it her business to know everything possible about everyone else.” Ruthie-Jo’s death may be related to the train wreck—or to her snooping into her neighbors’ business. He also frets about his wife, Etha, who was severely injured when the train crashed, and about his responsibilities to the vulnerable people who depend on him. Loewenstein gives a rich sense of the period and place, and dramatically shows how hard times can bring out the best in some and the worst in others. Historical regional mysteries don’t get much better than this. (Oct.)