Summary and book reviews of The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

A Novel

By Nancy Pickard

The Scent of Rain and Lightning
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  • Hardcover: May 2010,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2011,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Chapter One

June 9, 2009

Until she was twenty-six, Jody Linder felt suspicious of happiness.

She hated that about herself, because it tended to sour some otherwise pretty damn fine moments, but this was Rose, Kansas, after all. Only the year before, a pencil tornado had dropped down and killed three people only a few miles from her hometown. A tornado, when the sun was shining! In the winter, there were ice storms. In the summer, there were grass fires. At all times, people she knew went bankrupt, lost their homes, their ranches, their jobs. Or, they died just when you least expected them to. A person could, for instance, belong to a nice family living an ordinary life in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and on some innocent Saturday night, violent men could drop in like those tornadoes and turn those nice people into the dead stars of a Truman Capote book. Such things happened. That wasn't paranoia. It was a terrible fact that Jody knew better than anybody--or at least better than ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Engrossing, lyrical, and suspenseful, Nancy Pickard's 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.

The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning

  1. The Scent of Rain and Lightning revolves around the theme of revenge. What does this novel tell us about the nature of revenge?
  2. 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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

I love a good story. Even more, I love a good mystery. But, I confess, I'm a snob. Not only do I expect a page turner but also a novel that is well-written, an intelligent endeavor that anticipates intelligent readers. Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning fulfills my expectations. This novel wraps a plot of twists and turns around characters that are alive with complications and nuances. These characters are themselves a collection of stories, embodying the good and evil that exists in all of us. The plot weaves its way across the pages as electrically as the storms that advance towards Rose, Kansas, bearing with them the heat of passion, the violence of revenge, and the rains of love. I have not read Pickard before, but I'm on the way to the library for more! (Becky M)   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews
The Kansas City Star - Steve Weinberg

Nancy Pickard ... has written so many first-rate mystery novels (19 so far) that publication of a new one might seem like an occasion for ho-hum. The Scent of Rain and Lightning is anything but ho-hum. Set in a fictional remote Kansas ranching town, it is 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.

Barnes & Noble

Riveting and dynamic, this moving novel will have readers enthralled from beginning to end.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With exquisite sensitivity, Edgar-finalist Pickard (The Virgin of Small Plains) probes a smoldering cold case...

Booklist - Michele Leber

Starred Review. 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.

Library Journal - Teresa L. Jacobsen

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.

Reader Reviews
Elizabeth

Predictable? You may be predicting incorrectly. :)
The ending is a little predictable, but also a surprise. You will like the story. The story is definitely a page turner. The love and the kindness the Linder family has for everyone draws you into the storyline. I am going to rate it a 4/5 ...   Read More

Robin F. (Tucson, AZ)

The Scent of Rain and Lightening
Fair warning to the reader who starts Nancy Pickard's new book, you will be immediately pulled in to the book and it's all encompassing plot. This is an author who continues to delight, giving us well-developed characters that we learn to know. ...   Read More

Sandra B. (Fremont, OH)

Fragrance of mystery
The use of weather in The Scent of Rain and Lightning evokes the setting and drives the story in this remarkable book by Nancy Pickard. The introduction of the previous family mystery and current day events intertwine to ensnare the reader and hold ...   Read More

Therese X. (CALERA, AL)

The Scent of Rain and Lightning
The quiet town of Rose, Kansas doesn't sound like it would be a hotbed of high drama. And for twenty years it wasn't. Jody Linder, 23, of the reknown and beloved Linder Ranch clan teaches English and exercises her independent nature despite three ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Monument Rocks
Nancy Pickard says that the fictional Testament Rocks in The Scent of Rain and Thunder are based on Monument Rocks located in Gove County, Kansas, a few hundred miles west of her home in Merriam, close to Kansas City.

Set in the high plains, Gove County is cut through from west to east by a deep valley caused by the Smoky Hill River, and is lined with geologic splendors such as Castle Rock and Monument Rocks (pictured below).

Monument Rock

The 70 foot high limestone formations known as Monument Rocks or the Chalk Pyramids (chalk being a type of limestone), originally formed about 80 million years ago, when the central interior of the US was covered by sea to a depth of several hundred feet. This sea was inhabited by a...

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