All across the west fires are burning out of control, and Utah is no exception. One horrible fire, in particular, the Milford Flats Fire, is the largest wildfire in Utah history, and has already burned more than 300,000 acres. Two people on a motorcycle lost their lives when smoke covered the freeway and they stopped, only to be hit by another vehicle. In addition, truckers have had to abandon their loads and drive for their lives. The freeway, I-15 from St. George to Salt Lake City, has been shut down alternately, along with I-70, an alternate route.
In short, things are a hot mess, and the fire is not even close to being contained. And given the forecast, things won’t change for quite a while.
In Central Utah, the Nebo fire has left many Utahns homeless, and killed three people, including a father and a son who were trying to help another man turn on his sprinklers to protect his ranch. All three died. An eleven-year-old boy outran the flames. He lost his father and grandfather.
And Utah is not alone. Nature is often more brutal than any criminal could ever hope to be. One of my favorite authors, Nevada Barr, has managed to combine both worlds in her books. That of nature, and of man.
Firestorm, was one of the first Barr books I ever read, and after that I was hooked. Here’s a description of the book from Amazon.
A raging fire in a national park seems an unlikely setting for a murder, but that’s exactly the circumstances that crime-fighting park ranger and medic Anna Pigeon confronts in this mystery thriller. A suspicious fire breaks loose in Northern California’s Lassen Volcanic Park and Pigeon assists in battling the blaze and treating the wounds of other fire fighters. As if that’s not enough, Pigeon finds herself without food and water trapped with a group of fire fighters, one of whom is a murderer. She tries to figure out who the culprit is before he, or the weather, strikes again.
Fire, weather, and murder, all rolled into one. Fighting the elements along with humans with murderous intent was also the theme of a Linda Howard book I just read, Cover of Night.
In the charming rural town of Trail Stop, Idaho, accessible to the outside world by only a single road, young widow Cate Nightingale lives peacefully with her four-year-old twin boys, running a bed-and-breakfast. Though the overnight guests are few and far between—occasional hunters and lake fishermen—Cate always manages to make ends meet with the help of the local jack-of-all-trades, Calvin Harris, who can handle everything from carpentry to plumbing. But Calvin is not what he seems, and Cate’s luck is about to run out.
One morning, the B&B’s only guest inexplicably vanishes, leaving behind his personal effects. A few days later Cate is shocked when armed men storm the house, demanding the mystery man’s belongings. Fearing for her children’s lives, Cate agrees to cooperate—until Calvin saves the day, forcing the intruders to scatter into the surrounding woods.
The nightmare, however, is just beginning. Cate, Calvin, and their entire community find themselves cut off and alone with no means to call for help as the threat gathers intensity and first blood is drawn.
With their fellow residents trapped and the entire town held hostage, Cate and Calvin have no choice but to take the fight to their enemies under the cover of night. While reticent Cal becomes a fearless protector, Cate makes the most daring move of her life . . . into the very heart of danger.
Nature also played in to the best book I’ve read in a very long time, Chill Factor by Sandra Brown. Brown is the QUEEN of twists and turns, and she leaves you guessing at every turn. And in this book she does it better than I have ever seen her do it before.
Here’s a blurb from a review by Publisher’s Weekly.
Lust, jealousy and murder suffuse Brown’s crisp thriller (after White Hot), set in the snowbound mountains of North Carolina. Lilly and Dutch Burton’s marriage didn’t withstand the loss of their three-year-old daughter, despite their attempt at a fresh start with the purchase of a vacation cabin in bucolic Cleary, N.C., where the novel opens on the divorced couple discussing its sale. Dutch is now Cleary’s chief of police, and Lilly is a magazine editor in Atlanta. As she races back to the city to beat a blizzard, her car skids out, striking a hiker emerging from the woods. Turns out he’s a man she knows: handsome freelance writer Ben Tierney, whom she met and flirted with the summer before. With no choice but to wait out the storm in the cabin with Ben, who is injured, Lilly calls Dutch, but he can’t reach her via the now impassable mountain road. Meanwhile, Cleary is haunted by the case of five missing women—all now feared dead. With Lilly still stranded, Dutch goes ballistic when the FBI arrives in town with evidence that Tierney is the serial killer. The snowy suspense will cool off Brown’s fans during the dog days of summer. (Aug.)
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So there are just three examples that I can think of where nature and murder are entertwined. You aren’t fighting one demon, you are fighting too, and both demand respect. Nature, I suppose, must be forgiven. The other, of course, deserves no forgiveness. But both are brutal and the combination of the two creates some very intense suspense.
Anyone else have some good examples where nature and murder both bring chaos to good fiction?