Book Review: The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Nancy Pickard
Ballantine Books, May 2010
ISBN 0345471016

When she was three years old, Jody Linder’s father, Hugh-Jay, was murdered and her mother disappeared. Hugh-Jay’s parents, Hugh and Annabelle Linder, along with their two remaining sons, Chase and Bobby as well as daughter Belle and her husband, Meryl raised Jody. As a prominent family in the small town of Rose, Kansas, the Linders owned a large ranch and employed troubled young men to assist in the work of running the ranch. For the most part, their attempts to rehabilitate these troubled youth are met with success. The exception is Billy Crosby. Billy has a wife and a son but can’t seem to stay out of trouble. He gets fired from the Linder ranch and indications point to him as the murderer.

With the name Linder, it’s easy to ensure that the guilty person is convicted and sentenced to prison, but after 23 years, Billy is released and returns to the small town of Rose. He’s carrying a giant chip on his shoulder, determined to make someone pay for the lost time in prison. Even more troubling is the scuttlebutt that the shoddy investigation and trial were conducted for the benefit of the Linders. It’s been said that Billy was too drunk that night to have killed Hugh-Jay.

The author easily and smoothly transitions back and forth from the past to the present. It’s during one of those transitions that the grown-up Jody meets up with the grown-up son, Collin Crosby, and learns that on the night of the murder, Collin stayed awake all night because he was afraid that Billy, a known wife beater, would harm Valentine, Collin’s mother. So if Billy didn’t kill Hugh-Jay, who did and what the heck happened to Jody’s mother, Laurie?

This is a great book that kept me reading until way past bedtime! The Scent of Rain and Lightning is definitely not the usual “whodunit”. I must admit I was blindsided by the twist and surprise conclusion ! If there is a negative aspect of this wonderful book, it’s the sex scenes which, in my opinion, add nothing to the story. Not only do I highly recommend this book, I look forward to reading more from this author.

Reviewed by Jean Tribull Harris, August 2010.