The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Nancy Pickard, 2010
One beautiful summer afternoon, from her bedroom window on the second floor, Jody Linder is unnerved to see her three uncles parking their pickups in front of her parents’ house—or what she calls her parents’ house, even though Jay and Laurie Jo Linder have been gone almost all of Jody’s life. “What is this fearsome thing I see?” the young high school English teacher whispers, mimicking Shakespeare. Polished boots, pressed jeans, fresh white shirts, Stetsons—her uncles’ suspiciously clean visiting clothes are a disturbing sign.
The three bring shocking news: The man convicted of murdering Jody’s father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas. It has been twenty-six years since that stormy night when, as baby Jody lay asleep in her crib, her father was shot and killed and her mother disappeared, presumed dead. Neither the protective embrace of Jody’s uncles nor the safe haven of her grandparents’ ranch could erase the pain caused by Billy Crosby on that catastrophic night.
Now Billy Crosby has been granted a new trial, thanks in large part to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father’s innocence. As Jody lives only a few doors down from the Crosbys, she knows that sooner or later she’ll come face-to-face with the man who she believes destroyed her family.
What she doesn’t expect are the heated exchanges with Collin. Having grown up practically side by side in this very small town, Jody and Collin have had a long history of carefully avoiding each other’s eyes. Now Jody discovers that underneath their antagonism is a shared sense of loss that no one else could possibly understand. As she revisits old wounds, startling revelations compel her to uncover the dangerous truth about her family’s tragic past.
Engrossing, lyrical, and suspenseful, The Scent of Rain and Lightning captures the essence of small-town America—its heartfelt intimacy and its darkest secrets—where through struggle and hardship people still dare to hope for a better future. For Jody Linder, maybe even love. (From the publisher.)
• Education—University of Missouri-Columbia
• Awards—Anthony Award, Macavity Awards (5), Agatha
Christie Award (4), Shamus Award
• Currently—lives in Prairie Village, Kansas
Nancy Pickard is Nancy Pickard is the author of eighteen popular and critically acclaimed novels, including the Jenny Cain and Marie Lightfoot mystery series. She is also the author of The Virgin of Small Plains (2006). The Scent of Rain and Lightning is her most recent novel.
She has won the Anthony Award, two Macavity Awards, and two Agatha Awards for her novels. She is a three-time Edgar Award nominee, most recently for her first Marie Lightfoot mystery, The Whole Truth, which was a national bestseller. With Lynn Lott, Pickard co-authored Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path.
She has been a national board member of the Mystery Writers of America, as well as the president of Sisters in Crime. She lives in Prairie Village, Kansas (From the publisher.)
Mississippi had William Faulkner and his Yoknapatawpha County, and Maine's Stephen King has made that state known to readers the world over. Now, with two solid, literary mysteries — and more to come — Pickard bids to become the literary Baedeker to Kansas, and The Scent of Rain and Lightning seems certain to earn her a much-deserved larger audience.
Dorman T. Shindler - Denver Post
A "literary"novel in every sense of that word. Well-plotted, clearly written mystery novels are always welcome. A novel that simultaneously qualifies as a gripping read, a master character study and as literary is more than welcome — it is exceedingly rare. Although anxious to read the final chapter to learn the identity of the murderer, I put the novel aside for three days because I did not want it to end. Now that it has ended, Jody and the other well-crafted characters continue to live in my mind.
Steve Weinberg - Kansas City Star
This stand-alone story—set in rural Kansas--is a dramatic view into the lives of the Linder family.... Highlighting the ripple effect of people's actions, The Scent of Rain and Lightning is an in-depth tale of unraveling lies and deceit in perfect Pickard fashion.
Shannon Raab - Suspense Magazine
(Starred review.) With exquisite sensitivity, Edgar-finalist Pickard (The Virgin of Small Plains) probes a smoldering cold case involving the Linders, a cattle ranching family that's ruled the small, tight-knit community of Rose, Kans., for generations. One stormy night in 1986, someone shoots Hugh-Jay Linder dead, and Laurie, his discontented young wife, disappears. The authorities arrest Billy Crosby, a disgruntled ex-employee of High Rock Ranch with a drunk-driving record, in whose abandoned truck Laurie's bloodied sundress is found. In 2009, Billy's lawyer son, Collin, who's certain of his dad's innocence, secures Billy's release from prison and a new trial. Father and son return to Rose, where 25-year-old Jody Linder, the victims' daughter, works as a teacher. Collin's pursuit of justice will force Jody and other members of her family, including her three uncles and her grandparents, to finally confront what really happened on that long ago fatal night and deal with the consequences.
(Starred review.) A worthy successor to the author’s much-acclaimed The Virgin of Small Plains. Pickard’s superb storytelling transports the reader into the characters’ world, making all too real their dilemmas, their choices, and their willingness to believe the unlikely. Highly recommended.
Pickard shows her storytelling skills, weaving elements of deception, revenge, and romance into a novel with full-bodied characters who deal with tragedy as best they can; Annabelle Linder’s encounter with Crosby’s wife is particularly moving. From an award-winning author, this is engrossing fiction with an eminently satisfying denouement. —Michele Leber
1. Why do you think Pickard chose to title her novel The Scent of Rain and Lightning? How does she use weather and landscape as symbols in her writing?
2. How does Jody's place in the community change after her father's murder?
3. How is Collin's life affected?
4. What role do the residents of Rose have in Billy Crosby's conviction?
5. The Linders are portrayed as the most influential family in the county. What responsibility comes with such influence? Do any of the Linders abuse their power, despite their good intentions?
6. Though Hugh Linder Sr. is clearly the patriarch of the family, is he really the most powerful figure in the clan?
7. The Scent of Rain and Lightning revolves around the theme of revenge. What does this novel tell us about the nature of revenge?
8. The theme of forgiveness also plays a large role in the novel. How does the story reveal the challenges of forgiveness? Are the characters clearly in one camp or the other (revenge or forgiveness)? If so, how would you divide them? And which characters, if any, bridge these emotions?
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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