The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

Warning: some plot spoilers in the second paragraph.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning begins in the middle of the story: Jody Linder is awakened one morning when her uncles arrive on her doorstep to inform her that her father’s murderer has been released from jail, his sentence commuted by the efforts of his son, who has believed all along in his father’s innocence1. On a dark and stormy night twenty-six years prior to this awakening, Jody’s father was found dead in the spare bedroom of the house to which Jody has now returned, and her mother disappeared leaving no word for any family member. Billy Crosby, a ne’er do well, had worked for Jody’s grandparents, wealthy2 ranchers, but had a falling out with the family patriarch after getting caught abusing a cow. The bad blood between Billy Crosby and the Linder family was enough for local law enforcement to conclude that the evidence, both sparse and circumstantial, proved that Crosby killed the father, and had something to do with the mother’s disappearance. Despite the fact that several people witnessed the fact that Crosby was too drunk to undress himself, much less find his way through a thunderstorm of epic proportions to the Linder house, kill the father and abduct the mother while leaving so little evidence of any kind…not least puddles and wet footprints.

Needless to say, Collin Crosby and the town scuttlebutt proves to be right: Crosby, while a general scumbag, is innocent of this particular crime, Jody’s mother died herself as a result of the events of that ill-fated night….and Jody and Collin realize that they quite like each other, despite having been warned away from one another throughout the previous decades.

It’s a fairly straightforward plot, in language, dialogue, characterization and description, with little of the twists and turns common to thrillers, suspense novels and mysteries. I’d call it rather a slice of life work of fiction rather than trying to fit it into any genre; it makes as much sense to me as a romance as it does any of the variants on mystery and whodunits. I enjoyed it as much for the description of life in a dying Kansas community as for the thrill of trying to figure out whether the released man or a member of the family had caused these particular deaths. (Fear not, in the end Crosby gets what he deserves for what he actually did do.)

1of this crime at any rate; he wasn’t a particularly savory character
2by rural Kansas standards, anyway


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