In the midst of a treacherous storm 23 years ago, three-year-old Jody Linder’s father was murdered and her mother went missing. Billy Crosby, the man convicted of the crimes, simply had to be the killer. No other explanation made sense. Billy had worked on the Linder ranch up until the day of the murder, when Jody’s grandfather fired him following a heated argument. He made threats and vowed they’d be sorry. Now Billy’s sentence has been cut short, due to some legal issues, and he is coming back to his hometown of Rose, Kansas.
Nearly the entire population of Rose is stunned at first. Then their shock turns to anger. Why would he come back where he’s not wanted? They sure don’t want him back and will see that he is run out of town. He never was much good, always drunk or spoiling for a fight or beating up on his wife and son. No doubt, the chip on his shoulder has grown bigger in prison. The time he served has turned him into a mean and vengeful man. He always claimed he’s not guilty, but then what inmate doesn’t?
The Linders are an influential family in Rose, much admired and highly regarded. Raised by her grandparents, Jody has always been proud of her family. Their opinions matter in this town, as do their values. She can think of very little that they ever did wrong. So when she begins hearing arguments among some of the townspeople over Billy’s guilt, she can hardly believe her ears. Of course he’s guilty; everybody knows that! Unfortunately, those who hold a different opinion are people Jody trusts and respects. What follows for her is an intense emotional struggle. As the doubts start to creep in, thoughts turn to who, if not Billy.
Whether Billy Crosby deserved to be in prison for Jody’s father’s murder becomes less important than how he got there. Did Billy do it, or did the sheriff zero in on him and ignore anything that didn’t fit his assumptions? How good was the evidence? Did the Linder family have a hand in rushing the town to judgment? These questions and many more bothered Jody, and they will start to bother you, too. After all, when we see a violent, evil man go to prison, do we really care if he did what he was accused of? It just feels good to put him away, if for no other reason than because he scares us. But there may be worse things to be afraid of, and that’s what the Linders are about to find out.
THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTNING reads like fine fiction. It carries the reader forward with a desire to uncover its secrets, revelations and compelling mystery. Nancy Pickard will pull at your heartstrings when the murdered man’s mother discovers his body and as his daughter fights to understand events that changed her life forever. This is a story that will change every reader’s life, too, even if in just a small way.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 23, 2011
The Scent of Rain and Lightning