It seems like detective novels have very little connection between the title and the actual events of the book. At least the ones that I read seem this way. Ross MacDonald is probably the classic example of this. Consider the title The Zebra-Striped Hearse. The actual car makes a brief appearance in the book, and it’s not actually a major plot point. But, at the same time, the car seems to have some symbolic weight beyond its minor appearance. The same goes for The Goodbye Look or most of the rest of his books, for that matter.
I’m finding that something that I enjoy about reading these books is finding the point in the narrative when the title is explained. So this quote from Prayers for Rain by Dennis Lehane stood out. The two characters are discussing a woman who killed herself:
“Then,” she said flatly, her eyes on a gaggle of mallards as they waddled down the slope on the far side of the river. “Then she was a tocuh insane, I’d think. Ah, she wanted to die. Mr. Kenzie. So, so much.”
“Wanted to die or wanted to be saved?”
She turned her head toward me. “Aren’t they the same thing? Wishing to be saved? In this world, yeah? It’s…” Her small face grew bitter and gray and she shook her head several times.
“It’s what?” I said.
She looked at me like I was a child who’d asked why fire burns or seasons change.
“Well, it’s like praying for rain, isn’t it, Mr. Kenzie?” She raised her hands to the clear, white sky. “Praying for rain in the middle of a desert.”
Prayers for rain.
Suddenly the book title becomes terribly profound and almost poetic. Makes me think about all the people around me, offering their own prayers for rain.
But who sends the rain?