Nancy Pickard's debut novel The Scent of Rain and Lightning was a pleasurable, suspenseful read. Alternating between 1986 and the present, Jody Linder tries to determine what happened the fateful day that her father was killed and her mother went missing. Only three years old when she lost both parents, Jody only knows what her family has told her about the events that led to the loss of both parents: that Billy Crosby, an angry young ranch hand who her grandparents went out of their way to help, killed her father and was responsible for her mother's disappearance and probable death. Now Billy's sentence is being commuted and his son Collin, who grew up in his father's shadow is responsible for it. Jody's family still believes that Billy is guilty, but now that Billy is being released, Jody's eyes are being opened to some different opinions among the citizens of Rose, KS. Many believe Billy was a terribly angry man, but most are somewhat uncertain of his guilt in Hugh Jay's murder.
Without spoiling the suspense of this fast and intriguing read, there are many points Pickard brings up within this book about the events that occurred in 1986. Halfway through reading I was certain I had this one all figured out, only to be surprised at the book's end. Pickard's writing is easy to read and grabbed me right away. However, there were several times in this novel that I felt Pickard's dialogue was a bit stilted and forced. Overall, this was a great debut novel, and I don't want to nit-pick what most will find very entertaining reading. I will be looking forward to more work by Pickard and thoroughly enjoyed The Scent of Rain and Lightning.