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'Death of a Rainmaker' a welcome addition to Dust Bowl fiction

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"Death of a Rainmaker: A Dust Bowl Mystery" by Laurie Loewenstein (Kaylie Jones Books, 320 pages, in some stores and online)

When I pulled "Death of a Rainmaker" out of a box of books to review, I thought to myself, “What could another fiction book add to the already numerous books set in the Dust Bowl?” I had read articles, nonfiction and fictional accounts, including "I will Send Rain" by Rae Meadows, "Challengers of the Dust" by William Bernhardt and "Beulah’s House of Prayer" by Cynthia Graham.

It was a few weeks before I was able to start reading , but once I did, I had to keep reading any where and any time I had a free moment. The plot is compelling, the character development effective and the setting carefully and accurately designed even if a reader cannot identify a specific place Loewenstein used as a pattern. I have lived in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma; I know about wind and dust.

Roland Coombs, a traveling swindler, comes to the seat of Jackson County, Oklahoma, claiming he has a secret formula for explosives that guarantees washtubs will be full of rainwater by daybreak.

From this point on the author carefully plaits strands of action that climax into a somewhat surprising finished cable. In the process we come face to face with a variety of characters. Some, such as the sheriff and his spouse, we learn to like for their strengths; others, such as the town’s attorney, we come to look upon with suspicion and even distaste.

The environmental trials encourage some residents to stay and wait out the devastating dust. Some move on voluntarily, while others painfully have no choice. But in every case the fictional characters seem like real people, people we know from our everyday experiences.

Combining a well created plot with an accurate, albeit imagined, setting and characters that “speak” clearly off of the page make "Death of a Rainmaker" a pleasant adventure in reading.

— Richard Rouillard, for The Oklahoman

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