Great Reads Book Club kicked off the New Year with Nancy Pickard’s The Scent of Rain and Lightning. Apart from one person, who did not like anything about the book, everyone enjoyed Pickard’s mystery. While the majority liked the book, there was a uniform consensus that the final 20 to 30 pages could have been better plotted and better written. Unfortunately, a poorly-written conclusion muddles an enjoyable reading experience.
The most impressive aspect about Nancy Pickard’s The Scent of Rain and Lightning is its setting. According to the author, an idea for the story was born from the landscape. Pickard saw a photograph of Monument Rocks in Gove County, Kansas and was, according to her own words, ‘blown away’.
A small, fictional town of Rose is unpredictable. There are tornadoes, ice storms, bad economy and unresolved mysteries. When Jody Linder was 3 her father was murdered and her mother disappeared. A local drunkard and suspected wife beater Billy Crosby is arrested and imprisoned for committing the crime. Billy tries to convince everyone that he did not kill Jody’s father, but it is a word of an unpredictable, self-destructing man versus an overwhelming majority of a ‘decent’ community. 23 years later Billy’s sentence is commuted and he is released from jail. Billy’s early release unleashes an erratic chain of events; an incident that changes lives of nearly everyone living in Rose.
The Scent of Rain and Lightning has a few plot holes but that should not stop potential readers from picking this book up. The story is engaging and, as I have mentioned previously, the small town setting is believable and engrossing. Rural Kansas comes alive through Pickard’s writing. If you prefer a great sense of place over mystery , I definitely recommend this book. A movie adaptation starring Justin Chatwin (Shameless, War of the Worlds) will be released in 2017.