Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Lake of Fire’ | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Lake of Fire’

by Andrew Travers

Where there's smoke, there's fire. And where there's fire, there's a conspiracy afoot in Mark Stevens' "Lake of Fire." The page-turning follow-up to the author's Colorado Book Award-winning "Trapline," this is the fourth in Stevens' inventive Alison Coil mystery series.

This time around, Coil, a tough and intuitive hunting guide, tracks a case of murder-by-wildfire that eventually unearths a larger conspiracy. She's brought into the fold by Devo, a wild-eyed anti-authoritarian living off the land (and, ironically, the subject of a reality TV show about doing so). Devo finds early on that a wildfire ravaging the Flat Tops Wilderness was set to cover up the murder of an environmental activist. Coil brings Glenwood Springs reporter Duncan Bloom and his organic food provider girlfriend, Trudy, to help find Soto's killer.

Stevens crafts a tight thriller with a wonderful sense of the characters and atmosphere of the Colorado mountains – Western Slope readers will no doubt see their friends and neighbors and themselves in the rag-tag team of individualistic high-country sleuths of "Lake of Fire."

A former reporter himself, Stevens deftly weaves current events and Colorado issues into his books. As the contentious fight over immigration policy served as the engine of "Trapline," the battle over global warming drives "Lake of Fire." Consider this from the book's opening pages, where Alison thinks about the flames of the forest fire as a dragon's breath: "Dragon in the form of climate change and beatle kill and aberrant, menacing storms. And her demise. A minor loss in the big scheme of things. Katrina to Sandy to the monster tornados from Missouri to Oklahoma."

Heavy stuff for a paperback thriller. Many readers, of course, turn to mystery novels as diversions from fears about things like global warming. Instead, in "Lake of Fire," Stevens uses those fears to drive a gripping gumshoe narrative.

atravers@aspentimes.com

NOTEWORTHY

‘Lake of Fire’

Mark Stevens

408 pages, paperback: $14.99

Midnight Ink, 2015