Jody Linder's family is the wealthiest and most respected family in Rose, Kansas. So when three-year old Jody's young father is brutally murdered and her beautiful mother goes missing, the whole town reverberates with shock and anger. The Linders, led by the powerful Hugh Senior, make sure that the guilty is punished -- in this case, town drunk and wife-beater Bill Crosby. But twenty-three years later, Jody's world is rocked once again despite her efforts to carve out a new life under the watchful eye of her grandparents and doting uncles. Crosby is now back in Rose, and his son Collin, now a lawyer, is determined to prove his father's innocence. Jody must deal once again with the horrible crime that destroyed her family.
I found this mistakenly placed in the YA section (perhaps because of its cover) and was pleasantly surprised as page after page revealed something that I never expected. As a mystery, it is engaging as its details are drawn sharply and compellingly. As a family drama, it doesn't quite have the intensity of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones but it is still effective in painting the different relationships in the Linder and Crosby families. There are lovely contrasts emphasized between the lives of Jody and Collin before and after the event, and while their growing relationship isn't as essential to the plot as other elements are, I still found myself hoping that Ms Pickard chose to explore this a bit more.
It took me a while to get used to the pace. It starts in present-day Rose, when Jody's uncles tell her that Crosby has returned. The next half of the book recounts the events that lead up to Hugh-Jay Linder's death before jumping back to the present. Doing so heightened the tension and the mystery, and by the truth was revealed, I had learned to appreciate why Ms Pickard told the story that way. I certainly didn't call this one at all.
The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a glimpse into small-town life and politics, into a family and a town dealing with fear, mistrust, and outrage. There were a lot of elements here that are present and plausible in the Philippines' own rural areas. Despite being different from my usual reading fare, The Scent of Rain and Lightning was a quick read whose grit and spirit did not disappoint me in the end.
NOTE: This review is done in response to the Whodunit Reading Challenge hosted by Mary, Myra, and Fats at Gathering Books.