Synopses & Reviews
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 Hardcover edition.
One beautiful summer afternoon, Jody Linder receives shocking news: The man convicted of murdering her father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas. It has been twenty-three years since that stormy night when her father was shot and killed and her mother disappeared, presumed dead. Neither the protective embrace of Jody’s three uncles nor the safe haven of her grandparents’ ranch could erase the pain caused by Billy Crosby on that catastrophic night.
Now Billy Crosby is free, thanks to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father’s innocence. Despite their long history of carefully avoiding each other in such an insular community, Jody and Collin find that they share an exclusive sense of loss.
As Jody revisits old wounds, startling truths emerge about her family’s tragic past. But even through struggle and hardship, she still dares to hope for a better future—and maybe even love.
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About the Author
Nancy Pickard is a four-time Edgar Award nominee, most recently for her Ballantine debut, The Virgin of Small Plains
. She is the winner of the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, and three Agatha Awards. Her short stories have also won numerous accolades. Pickard has been a national board member of the Mystery Writers of America and president of Sisters in Crime, and she is a member of PEN. She lives in Merriam, Kansas.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
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
2. How does Jody’s place in the community change after her father’s
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
9. Was Meryl essentially a good guy, despite his affair with Laurie and
his role in Hugh-Jay’s death? Can a person really hide his or her true
character from his or her family so successfully for so many years?
10. Do you feel sympathy for the way Billy’s life turned out?
11. In the last moments of her life, Laurie seemed to have recognized
the errors of her ways. If the tragedy never occurred and Laurie had the
chance to grow old, would she have matured and become a better person,
wife, and mother?