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Editorial Reviews

Looks can be deceiving in The Scent of Rain and Lightning, Nancy Pickard’s entertaining, Midwestern murder mystery. And don’t be fooled by Tavia Gilbert’s twangy Kansas accent. Her voice may sound straightforward as she reads Pickard’s tale of murder, betrayal, and redemption, but don’t believe everything you hear. First impressions are not always correct.

That’s the beauty of Gilbert’s performance of this novel; you want to believe everything she says. We’ve been trained to trust that all Midwesterners — especially characters from a small Kansas farming town like Rose — mean exactly what they say. But like David Lynch’s disturbing film Blue Velvet or Grace Metalious’ scandalous novel Peyton Place, Pickard’s tale reminds us there’s often a hidden, darker side to some seemingly picture-perfect Norman Rockwell-esque towns.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning revolves around one fateful, stormy night 26 years ago. That night, someone brutally murders rancher Jay Linder in his home and Linder’s wife, Laurie, vanishes forever like one of the streaks of lightning flashing across the sky late that evening. Immediately, all the clues and fingers point to Billy Crosby, the violent ranch hand harboring a grudge against the Linder family. Crosby insists he did nothing wrong, but he’s soon sent to jail for the Linder murder. And for decades, Jay and Laurie’s orphaned daughter, Jody, grows up believing justice was served when Crosby was sent off to prison.

Then one morning, Jody’s uncles tell her that Crosby has been released from prison and will soon be returning to town. And worst of all, Crosby got out of jail thanks to the help of his son, Collin, a quiet, intelligent, determined lawyer nearly the same age as Jody — a person she feels repulsed by and yet inexplicably drawn to at the same time. And as the novel further unfolds and more details come to light, Jody must confront the past and question everything she thought was true in her life.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning starts off slowly. But like the smoldering embers of a forest fire, the story quickly bursts to life, grips your attention, and keeps you guessing right up until the final, fateful scenes. —Ken Ross

Publisher's Summary

Written with the wisdom and grace devoted readers and listeners have come to expect from the award-winning author of The Virgin of Small Plains, here is a brilliantly moving tale of family, murder, and redemptive love.

One beautiful summer afternoon, Jody Linder, a young English teacher, 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 they have been gone almost all of Jody’s life. 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 26 years since that stormy night when Jody’s 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 that night. Now Billy 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.

Jody knows that sooner or later she’ll come face-to-face with the man who she believes destroyed her family. But 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 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.

©2010 Nancy Pickard (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“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.” (Booklist)
“With exquisite sensitivity, Edgar-finalist Pickard probes a smoldering cold case….” (Publishers Weekly)
“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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Maddie
  • Sun Prairie, WI USA
  • 07-02-10

Really good book; poorly chosen narrator

I would probably give this book a 5-star rating if it weren't for the narrator. While she did her darndest to give an interesting and gripping telling of the story, her seeming complete lack of understanding of western Kansas accents and pronunciations was disconcerting to me. Were I a resident of the area, I would be insulted at the interpretation -- especially of the men's voices and accents. She would probably be excellent in other, more urban book settings. She is out of her league with this one.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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I'm from Kansas

and the accents used by this narrator are extremely irritating and insulting. The narrator obviously didn't bother to do any research. We don't have Southern accents - except for the few of us who actually moved here from a Southern state. More importantly, the narrator's inflections make it obvious she believes we're illiterate hicks. She's the one who needs educating. It would have been fun to enjoy a story based in Kansas, but that fun was ruined by the ignorant narration.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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She won't win any awards...

I listened to this for my book club. Our group agreed, it's a fine story, it kept us entertained, it had some good twists and turns. We also agreed that Nancy Pickard will not win any writing awards.

I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, especially for book club. Just not enough to talk about.

As for the narration, I was not a fan. I found the voice she used for the bad guy in the story irritating and I wanted her to shut up everytime she tried it.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Michele
  • Wellfleet, MA, United States
  • 11-26-11

A story that stays with you

Jody Linder's haunting legacy is being the child of a father who was murdered on the same night her mother disappeared. The author's exquisite writing transplants the reader to Rose, Kansas, where you can feel the dust in your throat and yes, you can smell the scent of Rain and Lightning. But it is the characters who stay with you long after you have heard the complicated truth told.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Hang in there

What did you love best about The Scent of Rain and Lightning?

I really enjoyed the surprise ending! I never expected it!

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

I felt the narration left much to be desired. I was annoyed at the child voices the narrator used. It was like a badly failed attempt at reading to small children in my mind.

Any additional comments?

This was a difficult story to listen to. I really lost interest around Chapter 15 and there are 42 chapters. I drudged through and am glad I did. Part of it for me was the narration - but not all.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Wonderful Summer Reading

Absolutely loved the book. This was one of thoses rare stories with an unexpected ending.

Highly recommend.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Good book, bad reader

I enjoyed the story overall but I wish I had simply bought the actual book instead of listening to it. The narrator was annoying and I really didn't like the accents or the attempts to "be" each character. It would have been far better had she just read in the normal voice, since most even average readers would be able to tell who was talking!

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Thoroughly enjoyed this book!

Suspenseful and unpredictable. Had some cheesy underdeveloped scenes towards the end but by then I was engrossed and overall I still say it was great

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Will keep you interested from beginning to end

A great story interwoven with love, betrayal, and family dynamics. Couldn't stop reading. Wonderful way to chill out in traffic.

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Story is great, but the performance was not.

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

It was a good story, interesting and intriguing enough that I was able to make it to the end even though I was irritated by the narration.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Bobby's son was my favorite character....Clint, I believe. He reminded me a bit of myself, I guess. He played a very stabilizing role in the book.

How could the performance have been better?

CHANGE THE ACCENTS USED!!! Tone it down. The accents were just over the top and so very, very annoying. If I were from Kansas, I would be offended. The narrator's voice got a little bit high pitched trying to do the accents and it was just not pleasant. Often times, less is more.When the narrator was just narrating and not doing dialogue with an accent she was excellent. Those parts I did enjoy.

Did The Scent of Rain and Lightning inspire you to do anything?

No. It was not an inspiring book. It was entertaining.

Any additional comments?

The story line itself was really good and very interesting. That is what helped me make it through the narration. I would consider this author again, but if this narrator is doing an accent I would have to forego it.