Death of a Rainmaker

Kaylie Jones: Akashic. (Dust Bowl, Bk. 1). Oct. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781617756795. $32.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617756801. M
OrangeReviewStarIn the 1930s, Jackson County, OK, went more than 240 days without rain, so a group of local businessmen hires an itinerant rainmaker, Roland Coombs, who claims his efforts with TNT and blasting power will make it rain in five days. But in the midst of a violent dust storm the next day, Coombs is killed. Sheriff Temple Jennings already has a lot on his plate: attending farm foreclosures, dealing with his reelection campaign, and investigating minor crimes such as a peeping Tom. When Temple's murder investigation leads to Carmine DiNapoli from the Civilian Conservation Corps, he finds himself at odds with his wife, Etha. Carmine reminds Etha Jennings of their dead son, and she'll do everything in her power, even some sleuthing herself, to prove the young man didn't kill Coombs. This richly detailed historical mystery brings the Dust Bowl to life, with the hardscrabble farms and semirural community barely coping with the losses of farms and local businesses.
VERDICT This evocative first volume in a new series should appeal to readers of Larry D. Sweazy's "Marjorie Trumaine" mysteries or Donis Casey's Oklahoma-set "Alafair Tucker" books. Fans of narrative nonfiction, including Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time, the book that inspired this work, may also want to give it a try.

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