A small-town sheriff in 1930s Oklahoma, already dealing with the effects of the Depression and a drought, must solve the murder of a rainmaker who failed to make it rain.
Sheriff Temple Jennings and his wife, Etha, have made Vermillion, Oklahoma, home for the last 15 years, having moved west to avoid memories of the place where their young son died. Everyone in town is struggling because of the Depression, but the farmers are especially hard-hit, trying to keep crops and animals alive without rain for 240 days. Certain town leaders, among them Jennings' rival for the upcoming sheriff’s election, have paid to have a rainmaker come to town in hopes of making it rain. But the day after the man's TNT blasting failed to bring a drop, he’s found dead outside the local movie theater. Suspicion falls on a local Civilian Conservation Corps young man who arouses the maternal instincts of Etha. She begins her own investigation, uncovering some dark town secrets along the way. In measured and only occasionally overwritten prose, Loewenstein (Unmentionables, 2014) movingly describes the events and the people, from farm eviction auctions and hobo villages to Dish Nights at the movies. She vividly brings to life a town filled with believable characters, from a young woman learning her own worth to the deputy sheriff figuring out where his loyalties lie.
This warm and evocative novel captures a time and place, with well-researched details shown through the lives and circumstances of one American town.