Hard Rain
April 21, 2023
Book Review

Hard Rain

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


“Hard Rain” is the author’s follow-up to her Tony Hillerman Prize-winning debut book, “Pay Dirt Road.” It provides another mesmerizing chapter in the growth and self-actualization of 25-year-old Annie McIntyre.

Although this is the second installment, it can certainly be devoured and enjoyed as a standalone, as Allen flawlessly supplies the necessary backstory. Fresh out of college, Annie returns to her small hometown of Garnett, Texas, anticipating only a short stay. She does not know where her fortune and future path will lead her. Unexpectedly, her grandfather LeRoy offers her a job in the family firm of McIntyre Investigation as a sort of apprenticeship. The firm is only comprised of elderly LeRoy, on the verge of retirement, and Mary-Pat Zimmerman, his former partner in the sheriff’s office. Annie intends on qualifying for her own license.

The reader is thrown immediately into the tumultuous action. The Geronimo River has crested to record levels of forty feet, and a flood warning alarm goes off on the cellphone of Bethany Richter, proclaiming a record-inducing flash flood. She finds herself on the second floor of a rented cabin. Her husband, preacher John-David, was called away on duty the night before, and her close friends Kendall and Michael are asleep on the first floor. She ventures out onto the balcony, only to be swept into the raging river. She finds herself clinging to a tree branch. She is rescued by a man who is also caught in the swift current, only for him subsequently to be swept away in the torturous current of the river gone mad. Her friends’ bodies are recovered several days later. This flood of biblical proportions caused devastation and chaos to the small, close-knit community. Suffering from shock and survival guilt, Bethany must have peace of mind and find out the identity of her savior. Is he still alive? She must thank him or his surviving family.

Bethany approaches her longtime friend Annie for answers. This will be Annie’s first solo investigation case. She describes her savior as looking sort-of-like a “blue-eyed Jesus.” She recalls him wearing a red t-shirt, proclaiming in large letters: “PAWS Garnett Fundraiser 5K Run” (a local animal shelter), and on one of his forearms, a tattoo of a blue rose.

Annie embarks on a tortuous investigation that meanders through an unexpected underbelly of crime, drug dealing, and abuse, resulting in surprising levels of danger and intrigue. Implications of the local church and its leaders raise concern about their true purpose and motivations. She begins to suspect her missing person may be more of a murderer than a savior.

Samantha Jayne Allen provides a slow-burn small-town mystery with escalating tension and intrigue that is atmospheric and expertly plotted, and crescendos into an unexpected and satisfying denouement. And yet, the reader is left yearning for further insight and travails of Annie McIntyre along her path of self-actualization.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press / Minotaur Books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

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