Temple and Etha's First Mystery

Bruce Von Stiers

There has been much written about the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma that occurred during the 1930's. The Dust Bowl has also been the backdrop for such great fiction as John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. And there have been several mystery novels that feature the Dust Bowl.

I just finished reading one of those Dust Bowl mystery novels. It is the first in a series featuring an Oklahoma sheriff and his wife. The title of the book is Death of a Rainmaker. It was written by Laurie Loewenstein. A faculty member of the creative writing program at Wilkes University, Loewenstein has also written a well-received novel titled Unmentionables.

Jackson County is just one of the many places in Oklahoma that is experiencing the devastating effects of the Dust Bowl. Because of the eroding soil and high winds, crops can't be grown and living conditions are not very favorable. Many residents of the county are leaving for a better life, without dust storms. Not much more so that the residents of Vermillion, which is the county seat. So, when a man shows up purporting to be able to make it rain, the townspeople, in fact the entire county, rallies around the idea. But a day after the presentation by the rainmaker, he ends up dead. It is learned that he was murdered. Sheriff Temple Jennings must now find the killer and bring him to justice.

There are several sub-plots in the novel that help tie everything together. There is a theater owner and his assistant. A doctor and his wife who might have information needed in Temple's investigation. There is an attorney who is trying to throw his weight around about a peeping tom. And there is a business owner in town who is running against Temple for the job of sheriff.

Temple's wife Etha becomes a central figure in the novel. She goes to the CCC camp outside of town and befriends a young man Carmine, who reminds her of her dead son. After the young man is arrested for the murder of the rainmaker, Etha does everything she can to clear Carmine's name. In the meantime, Temple, along with his deputy Ed McCance, try to sort through the evidence and clues to make a solid murder case against Carmine.

While this in not a cozy mystery, it is pretty clean. There isn't a lot of profanity, nor is there an excess of violence. Even though it is a murder mystery. And there isn't any gratuitous sex woven into the story either.

With Death of a Rainmaker, Laurie Loewenstein has written a decent mystery novel. She takes the reader down a couple of different paths before revealing the culprit and the true motive behind the murder. The characters are believable, and the storyline is pretty solid. I do wish that the CCC being in Vermillion would have been explained in further detail. Some readers might not grasp the significance of the CCC and what they were doing to help Vermillion and Jackson County.

Death of a Rainmaker is available at major book retailers. It was published by Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books.

To learn more about Death of a Rainmaker and its author, Laurie Loewenstein, visit https://laurieloewenstein.com/ You can also check out https://kayliejonesbooks.com/ and https://www.akashicbooks.com/

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© 2023 Bruce E Von Stiers