If I remember right, back in the dim, prehistoric days of 2008 when the Forgotten Books series started, one of the original reasons for it was to draw attention not only to older books but also to more recent ones that had slipped under the radar somehow and not gotten the attention they deserved.
S.A. Bailey's AND THE RAIN CAME DOWN is certainly such a book. Published by a small press in 2010, it's developed a devoted readership but ought to be more widely known. With luck I can do a little to remedy that situation, since it's a fine debut novel.
AND THE RAIN CAME DOWN is a private eye novel, and it starts with a classic private eye set-up. It was a wandering daughter job. Or rather, in this case, a wandering sister job, although the dynamic is very similar. Jebediah Shaw is an Iraq war veteran who has come back to his East Texas hometown of Athens, where he has a troubled marriage, drinking and drug problems, and a job tracking down bail jumpers for his best friend, who's a private investigator. Jeb doesn't have a license himself, but despite that he's hired by an old acquaintance from high school days who's a member of the richest family in the area. The client's little sister has disappeared, and he wants Jeb to find her and bring her home.
Naturally, nothing about the case turns out to be as straightforward as it appears to be at first. Like I said, this is classic private eye stuff, a structure going all the way back to Hammett and not really changed that much in the eighty or ninety years since. Despite all the twists and turns of the plot – and there are a lot of them – long-time readers of the genre probably won't be all that surprised by the various revelations.
What makes AND THE RAIN CAME DOWN really stand out is the voice through which it's filtered. I'm not a big fan of the angst-ridden, tormented protagonist/narrators that show up in a lot of current hardboiled and noir fiction. Bailey makes that character work in Jeb Shaw, though, and you can't help but root for him despite how messed up he is, probably because he provides a lot of dark but very funny, raw humor as well. And because he paints such a vivid picture of small-town and rural East Texas, which, if you're a fan of the TV series JUSTIFIED, will probably remind you a lot of Harlan County, Kentucky.
Now, when it comes to Texas there are East Texas guys and West Texas guys (as vast a denominational difference as that between Baptists and Methodists), and I'm much more of a West Texas guy. But East Texas writers seem to be great storytellers (Joe R. Lansdale his own self, anyone?), and you can add S.A. Bailey to that mix. I really enjoyed AND THE RAIN CAME DOWN, and if you're a fan of private eye novels or Texas novels or both, I give it a high recommendation.
By the way, the sequel, THE LINES WE CROSS, will be out soon if it's not already, and I'm looking forward to reading it, too.