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The Death of the Rainmaker, by Laurie Loewenstein.

August 11, 2018

Death of a Rainmaker
The Death of the Rainmaker: A Dust Bowl Mystery, by Laurie Loewenstein.  A Kaylie Jones Book, 2018.


4 stars

A clever mystery set the Oklahoma panhandle during the great Depression and involving local characters trying to figure out why a visitor to their town was killed.

Laurie Loewenstein, grew up in central and western Ohio and has lived in eastern Pennsylvania and Maryland. She earned a BA and MA in history and has written for several small daily newspapers. In her fifties, she returned to college for an MA in Creative Writing. Her current book, Death of a Rainmaker (2018), is the first of a mystery series set in the 1930s Dust Bowl in the Oklahoma Panhandle.  She is publishing this novel as part of the Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books, a cooperative of dedicated, emerging and established writers.

The setting for this book is western Oklahoma during Dust Bowl, a time of great suffering as a combination of drought and depression struck the American Great Plains during the 1930s. Farmers and residents of an imaginary small town are losing their ability to make a living. A glib salesman arrives promising to bring rain, but he is killed in the midst of a sand storm. With the help of his wife and friends, the sheriff struggles to discover the killer before he gets voted out of office.

Death of the Rain Maker is an enjoyable book, a mystery centered on people in a particular situation. Lowenstein does a creditable job describing the variety characters involved in her story and the reality of their experiences. In addition to the murder, she deftly reveals other problems in the town. Without loses the focus of her plot, she includes incidents about such as domestic abuse, the silencing of wisdom, and the distain for the young men who are working at the nearby Civil Conservation Corp, a New Deal project to help and train unemployed youth while accomplishing much needed public works.  The narrative is enlivened when the sheriff’s wife becomes involved with the investigation.

Because Lowenstein does much very well and plans to use this book to start a series, I will make a suggestion.  She has done her research, especially about the situation for the people. But at times her descriptions of the landscape are off, creating annoyances for people like me who are familiar with it.  Certainly there would be small clusters of cottonwood trees and vines in spots where water is close to the surface, but people in the Panhandle would not call such places a jungle. Perhaps she needs to simply visit the landscape and absorb its immense sky.

I gladly recommend The Death of the Rain Maker to all who enjoy mysteries where the place and the local people are central to the narrative.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 11, 2018 11:39 am

    Shame she made that error about the landscape. People unfamiliar with the area wouldn’t notice it of course but if you know the region then it would irritate

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