Nancy Pickard is a critically acclaimed author having won an Anthony Award, a Macavity Award and three Agatha Awards. She has also been nominated for four Edgar Awards. In addition to her novels, Pickard also writes short stories, many of which have also won numerous awards. She was the President of Sisters in Crime and has been a national board member of the Mystery Writers of America. “The Scent of Rain and Lightning,” her latest novel is the recipient of a 2010 Agatha Nomination for Best Novel.
The story revolves around the Linders, a powerful and benevolent family of ranchers. As the story opens, Jody Linder, the 26 year old granddaughter is told by her three uncles that the Governor has commuted the sentence for the man that is in jail for killing her father and kidnapping and presumably killing her mother, as her mother’s body was never found. The family is naturally furious and frightened.
The story then returns to the events leading up to her parents’ murders when she was three years old. The grandparents were known to hire young men to work the ranch in an attempt to “save” them. These were young men who may be on the wrong path, who needed a good job, hard work and good role models. While this had worked for many, Billy Crosby may have been a lost cause. Billy had a hot temper and after a series of difficulties with his employers, no one questioned that he had the motive to kill the owner’s oldest son and kidnap his wife. While there may have been a few in the town that doubted Billy’s guilt, no one cared enough about this ne’re-do-well to take his side to defend him against the Linder clan. That included the sheriff who neglected to turn over evidence to the defense team which is what gained Billy the commuted sentence.
Jody begins asking questions about her parent’s death and the trial and in the end figures out the real killer of her parents.
The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a powerful book and I don’t use that term lightly. While it is clearly a mystery, the majority of the book explores the qualities of power, responsibility, revenge, forgiveness and love. The book shows us that life isn’t black and white, but offers many shades of gray. The strong multidimensional characters in the book often help us to understand the gray as does the entire plot.
Pickard, a native of Kansas, writes almost poetically at times about the Kansas setting. The entire book offers a master class in descriptive writing and makes even the most mundane chores around the farm come alive. You can almost taste Jody’s mother’s pie, or see her kitchen. You can hear the storms coming. Most importantly you can feel the emotion on all sides.
My favorite scene in the book occurs after Billy has been sentenced to prison for killing the elder Linder son. The grandmother goes to the grocery where Billy’s wife works to talk to her in a public setting. This poignant scene somehow manages to express so well the mixed emotions and the values of the entire book.
I strongly recommend this book. This book would be excellent for book clubs as well. In fact Pickard has included discussion questions in the back of the book.
Five Stars out of Five.
In accordance with the FTC guidelines for reviewers, I would like to clarify that this book was provided to me by the publisher free of charge. I am not compensated by the author or publisher for my review. All they expect is an honest review of the work.