Allison Coil, big game hunting guide and occasional investigator in the mountains of Colorado, is back in “Lake of Fire,” by Mark Stevens. He continues the environmental theme of his award-winning series and focuses on a monster fire that threatens to consume Alison’s beloved Flat Top Wilderness.
Devo, a back to nature enthusiast featured in the series, has been stripping back the layers of civilization and living completely off the land. Devo now leads a working commune of fellow devotees hidden deep in the woods.
During a wide-ranging walk, Devo spots the fire and discovers a charred body, along with possible evidence that the fire was set. A natural phenomenon could be dealt with, but a criminal act that purposely puts them all at risk? Another matter entirely. Devo must balance his wish for his enclave to remain hidden from the world with his desire to do the right thing. Report the body to the authorities? Okay, but only through Allison Coil.
Against the backdrop of the spreading Flat Top fires and the loss of hundreds of homes, Allison works to solve the gruesome murder. She and her friends must contend with a dangerous anti-government group whose leaders don’t care about the fallout, only that they be heard. Stevens’ complex core ensemble characters have developed in each book, with Allison and Trudy emotionally stronger, and Colin and Duncan now more vulnerable. Each has challenges to face, and the subplots intertwine until reaching their unexpected conclusions.
Woven through the storyline, Stevens presents the disaster-fueled dilemma: Should people flee and leave behind a lifetime of sweat and memories? Should they stay and fight to save the property at the peril of their own lives? “Lake of Fire” could be ripped from the headlines as real-life wildfires besiege the Midwest during another dry season.
Uncommonly warm temperatures, tinder dry trees, overworked firefighters, inadequate resources to combat miles of fire – all combine with catastrophic results. A close friend of mine and her family lost everything except the dog and the clothes on their backs to a wildfire. It changed direction and took everything. There was warning, but no options without sufficient water to fight it.
Stevens creates frightening fire scenes as the flames alternately surround Allison on horseback and later approach Colin’s family ranch. He takes a sobering look at how the fires are prioritized when little can be done. “Lake of Fire” touches on some very real political and environmental issues facing Colorado, while delivering a chilling murder mystery.
Please visit www.writermarkstevens.com for information about his other works as well as the soon-to-be-released “The Melancholy Howl.“