cover image Death of a Rainmaker: A Dust Bowl Mystery

Death of a Rainmaker: A Dust Bowl Mystery

Laurie Loewenstein. Kaylie Jones, $16.95 trade paper (314p) ISBN 978-1-61775-665-8

Set in Vermillion, Okla., in 1935, this superb series launch from Loewenstein (Unmentionables) introduces Sheriff Temple Jennings and his stalwart wife, Etha. Once relatively prosperous, Vermillion’s farmers must contend with the continuing crop-killing dust storms, and when they suffer, so do the merchants. People are willing to turn to charlatans who offer false hope, such as rainmaker Roland Coombs. Strangers, many of them young men from families who couldn’t afford them, fill nearby vagrant camps. Others find refuge in the local Civilian Conservation Corp camp. Cleaning up after a nasty dust storm, theater owner Chester Benton finds Coombs’s body buried in a pile of dirt. Someone apparently bashed in the victim’s head with a board or a pipe, and 19-year-old Carmine DiNapoli, a CCC camper, is arrested for the crime. Etha, convinced of Carmine’s innocence, sets out to prove it to Temple. Loewenstein beautifully captures the devastation of the land and people in the dust bowl. (Oct.)