The Scent of Rain & Lightning by Nancy Pickard (Blackstone)

Publisher’s weekly starred review

Booklist Starred Review

Booklist’s Top Audiobooks for Adult Listeners 2010

Booklist’s Editor’s Choice 2010

 Tavia Gilbert demonstrates remarkable range in her narration of Pickard’s spine-tingling thriller set in a rural Kansas ranch community, where mysterious secrets surrounding the wealthy and prominent Linder family come to light in chilling detail. Gilbert’s performance as convicted murderer—and town pariah—Billy Crosby crackles with pentup rage. The scene in which protagonist Jody Linder—a 20-something woman who lost her parents in a crime spree for which Crosby was imprisoned two decades earlier—encounters the newly paroled Crosby in the parking lot of a local tavern demonstrates Gilbert’s remarkable ability to heighten the suspense through vocal nuances and pacing. Gilbert also delivers an especially winning turn in her portrayal of Jody as a little girl too young to understand the sordid events around her. An edge-of-your seat listen. Publishers Weekly

It might have been tempting to make all the characters sound alike (since all of the action takes place in rural Rose, Kansas), but Gilbert voices the richly drawn characters in distinct fashion. Bad-seed Billy whines when he is accused of cattle mutilation and murder, and Hugh Jay (Jody’s father) sounds thoughtful and kind. Jody’s mother, Laurie, who disappeared after the murder, speaks in a slight southern accent with petulant overtones; Jody’s grandmother’s voice is strong and clear, and listeners feel her pain when she sobs over her dead son’s body and shows kindness to Billy’s wife. The sweet “baby” voice of toddler Jody shifts in cadence and timbre as she matures to a confident young woman. Billy’s tormented son grows from a bewildered young boy to a determined man; Gilbert changes pitch to indicate his age and transformation. Rose, Kansas, simmers with secrets, and as the plot unfolds, listeners gradually learn the truth and the fatal consequences in this memorable story. Booklist Starred Review