Death of a Rainmaker
A Dust Bowl Mystery #1
Kaylie Jones Books/Akashic Books, October 2018
I’ll start out by saying this is a book that’s already been added to my “Best Books Read in 2019” list.
Death of a Rainmaker features dust storms so brilliantly written they’ll have you choking from the dirt and grit filling your eyes, your mouth, your lungs. Historical fact: Did you know Dust Pneumonia was/is a real malady? It killed many a child during the dust bowl years. You’ll also learn about the everyday life of the inhabitants of this small and steadily shrinking Oklahoma town. They’re people you’ll get to know as if they’re your own neighbors.
Be prepared to feel the despair of the people, families, especially the rural families, who tried everything they knew to make a living during this heartbreaking time, but who could only watch their wells dry up and their livestock die. As they watched their children die. And their hopes and dreams die, buried in dust that piled in drifts around the buildings and got in through every little crack in the boards of their dried-out houses.
So, when a stranger claiming to be a rainmaker shows up vowing to bring moisture to the parched earth, why is he murdered outside a movie house run by a blind man, in the middle of a huge duststorm?
Was it because he failed to bring rain? Was it because of a fight he got into with a young CCC worker when they’d both had too much to drink? Or was it because he eyed another man’s wife?
These are all questions Sheriff Temple Jennings is going to need to answer. Quickly, because the election is coming up and for the first time in years he has a man running against him for the job. Etha, his wife, has her own ideas about the murder, and they don’t coincide with her husband’s.
So much goes on in this novel. It’s a history of those years when poverty stalked a large portion of the population, especially in the rural areas of Oklahoma and thereabouts. It’s a grouping of character studies. It’s a mystery. And it’s wonderful.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.