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by Laurie Loewenstein
Akashic Books, October 2018
320 pages
ISBN: 1617756652

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In Laurie Loewenstein's debut novel, DEATH OF A RAINMAKER, Sheriff Temple Jennings is already dealing with the devastating effects that the Depression and the Dust Bowl are having on his small Oklahoma town and its citizens, so when the body of a traveling rainmaker is discovered after a monstrous dust storm, the sheriff's plate becomes much fuller. Hoping that detonating some TNT would shake the heavens hard enough to produce some rain, the rainmaker is met with disdain when not a drop falls to quench the crops. A few days later, a fearsome dust storm the likes of which the town has never seen becomes the perfect setting for an inconspicuous murder, and the rainmaker's body is found buried in the dirt right outside the local movie theater.

Temple and his deputy's main suspect is revealed to be a young man who currently works directly outside of the town of Vermillion for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Carmine the CCCer seems to check all of the boxes in terms of being at the site of the crime and having a motive; however, Temple's wife finds sympathy for the boy because he reminds her of their son who tragically drowned years ago. Etha Jennings sets out to do some investigating of her own, and in doing so, uncovers some small-town secrets that may be the key to proving Carmine's innocence.

Readers will be completely absorbed in the lives of Loewenstein's characters who epitomize the extraordinary resilience of small-town folks caught in the throes of the Great Depression. DEATH OF A RAINMAKER, though sometimes overwritten, is a realistic and poignant depiction of life during the 1930's in the Dust Bowl, an era that altered the course of our country's history, but that not many modern Americans remember. Loewenstein manages to connect an enticing murder mystery with riveting historical fiction that places the reader directly in the dusty shoes of her characters.

§ Katie is currently pursuing a degree in English Education from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay with the hopes of being a high school English teacher. When she's not working or sleeping, you’ll find her reading obscene amounts or binge-watching New Girl without a trace of shame.

Reviewed by Katie Voss, August 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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