Author: Robert Conroy
Publisher: Baen Books
This is presumably the final novel of Robert Conroy, who died of cancer in December 2014. He was best-known for well-researched alternate-history science fiction: what if the Japanese had invaded Hawaii in World War II? What if Col. George Custer had brought Gatling guns to Little Big Horn in 1876 (as he was supposed to), had beaten the Indians, and parlayed that victory into a successful presidential run in the 1880 elections?
In “Storm Front”, he has written a more mundane thriller, not s-f as much as a modern extreme weather disaster with a nod to Climate Change. A completely unexpected March freak storm strikes the Midwest. It only brings heavy rains to most areas, but in the town of Sheridan, Michigan, a rare combination of conditions brings a horrific blizzard that stalls over the city, lasting for hours, maybe days. People freeze to death within feet of their homes. Children are trapped in the local school. Drivers are trapped in cars and die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Families have not stocked their kitchens and cannot get to markets; will the blizzard last long enough that they starve? Medical emergencies cannot reach hospitals. As panic spreads, people resort to desperate measures; some successful and others fatal.
As in other disaster novels, “Storm Front” switches back and forth between a small group of characters. Wally Wellman is a local TV weather forecaster frustrated because his Channel Six management “doesn’t want to cause unnecessary panic” and won’t allow him to announce his real predictions. Maddy Kovacs is a young elementary school teacher trying to keep her students safe. Police traffic sergeant Mike Stuart must decide when the law should be enforced and when to make exceptions in an emergency. As other police officers cannot reach the headquarters station or prove unequal to handle the emergency, Mike takes on increasing responsibility; especially when the mayor issues unrealistic orders.
“‘You know what I’m concerned about?’ [Public Works Director] Hassel interjected. ‘Roofs collapsing. Snow piling up is gonna be a problem for the best-built building. Too much snow could be a disaster waiting to happen.’” (p, 46)
Then the murdered bodies start being discovered. Two killers who have escaped from prison and were passing through Sheridan when the storm trapped them there are “going to town” in the worst way. Aid from out-of-town cannot get into Sheridan. Mike finds himself reassigned from traffic to lead a pathetic team of untrained local police against two experienced and sadistic killers in stolen snowmobiles who can strike anywhere in town.
“Storm Front” is a gripping and convincing thriller in today’s world of seemingly ever-larger hurricanes and rising ocean levels. It’s a $25.00 hardcover, $9.99 on Kindle.
About the book:
NATIONALLY BEST-SELLING AUTHOR. A snow storm of epic proportions shuts down the town of Sheridan, Michigan. The weather is dangerous enough on its own. But the bad weather has blown something even deadlier into town, and a duo of sadistic killers is on the loose.
No one thought much about the storm. Not the National Weather Service and not the big-name meteorologists. Experienced local weatherman Wally Wellman thought there might be trouble, but even he couldn’t predict the natural disaster that was about to lay siege to the quiet suburb of Sheridan, Michigan.
Now, with resources stretched to their breaking point, Sheridan police officer Mike Stuart must try to keep the town safe. But there something is lurking in Sheridan. Something as cold as the snow and ice, and just as deadly. A pair of escaped convicts, on the run south, have been stranded in town. But they don’t plan on laying low. And as the death toll rises, Officer Stuart must face down enemies far more dangerous —and unpredictable—than any storm.