Between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Laramie, Wyoming, a distance of about fifty miles, the weather can change dramatically from sunny to severe snow as the elevation increases, and despite weather warnings a sudden whiteout between destinations often catches travelers by total surprise. One time, we tried to get through the mountains before the storm hit. Halfway home, the blizzard struck. In these conditions it is impossible to slow down because other traffic such as big trucks cannot see you and the risk of a collision is imminent. Stopping is also out of the question because you might get struck by a passing vehicle or get hopelessly stuck. If you slid off the road into one of the deep embankments, you might not be found and unable to summon help.
On that night, the blowing snow made it almost impossible to see the road and the steep drop-offs. We were in a position where underlying ice made braking impossible and many trucks on the road were swerving wildly out of control. We hit a patch of ice and barely escaped a bad crash into the canyon. This experience led us to write An Icy Death.
In Wyoming most travelers are warned to bring food, water and extra blankets in case of an emergency. But sometimes people are caught unaware, or even these precautions aren’t enough to guarantee safety. Every winter in the area, despite weather watches and road closings, there are casualties from exposure and hypothermia. A person can freeze to death in a very short time.
We have read newspaper accounts of people getting out of their car and losing track of direction, or staying in their vehicle and freezing to death. Wrecked or stranded cars leave travelers faced with a life or death decision to remain or to go for help. And such was the case of our fictional characters, the wealthy, middle-aged couple, Arthur and Margaret Burnell.
Our story begins when Sheriff Jeff McQuede hears about a stalled vehicle and leaves the highway to find a woman frozen to death in a car. Footsteps in the snow indicate that someone has gone after help, and McQuede expects to find the second part of a tragedy.
McQuede soon learns that Margaret and Arthur Burnell have traveled from Casper and taken a shortcut to Durmont. Margaret is a partner in the Trevino Sporting Goods store chain, the local store which has recently been robbed. While she is in town, she plans to have an audit of the books. Because Arthur Burnell has signed a prenup, part of her fortune remains with the business, yet her husband would still profit enough to make him a prime suspect. But he’s not the only one with motive and opportunity.
In his pursuit of the killer, McQuede faces many grave dangers. In An Icy Death, in order to solve the crime he must face the brutal elements as well as a deadly killer.