- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Release Date: 2005, 2006, 2018
- ISBN-13: 978-1416593522
- Available Languages: German (3), English (UK), Czech, Russian, Finnish (952), Lithuanian, Brazilian (85), Danish (87)
- Available Formats: Audio, e-Book, Print
Suspense abounds in this gripping new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown, in which a successful magazine editor is trapped in her remote cabin with a man believed to be a serial killer.
Cleary, North Carolina, is a sleepy mountain town — the kind of place where criminal activity was once limited to parking violations. Not so, lately. In the last two years four women have disappeared from Cleary. And there’s always a blue ribbon left near the spot where each of the women was last seen. There are no bodies, no other clues, and no suspects. And now, another woman has disappeared without a trace.
It is to this backdrop that Lilly Martin returns to close the sale of her mountain cabin, marking the end of her turbulent eight-year marriage to Dutch Burton, Cleary’s chief of police. Dutch’s reluctance to let her go isn’t Lilly’s only obstacle. As she’s trying to outrun a snowstorm, her car skids on the icy road and strikes a man who emerges from the woodst. She recognizes the injured man as Ben Tierney, whom she’d met the previous summer. They’re forced to wait out the storm in a nearby cabin, but as the hours of their confinement mount, Lilly wonders if the greatest danger to her safety isn’t the blizzard outside, but the mysterious man right beside her.
Is Ben Tierney the feared abductor? Or is he who he claims to be…her rescuer?
Lilly was awakened by the sound of sleet pellets striking the tin roof.
Go-rounds with Dutch always had left her exhausted. The tense encounters they’d had during the past week while she was in Cleary to finalize the sale of the cabin must have taken more of a toll on her than even she had realized. After the last one, her body had kindly shut down her mind for a while and allowed her to sleep.
She sat up, rubbing her arms against the chill. The cabin bedroom had grown dark, too dark even for her to read her wristwatch. She got up, went to the window, and pulled back the edge of the drapery. It let in very little light but enough for her to see her watch.
The time surprised her. She’d slept deeply and dreamlessly, but, actually, not that long. As dark as it was, she had expected it to be much later. The low clouds enwrapping the mountaintop had created a premature and eerie darkness.
The ground was now covered with an opaque layer of sleet. It continued to fall, intermingled with freezing rain and what meteorologists called snow grains, tiny chips that looked more menacing than their lacy cousins. Tree branches were already encased in tubes of ice which were growing discernibly thicker. A strong wind buffeted the window panes.
It had been careless of her to fall asleep. That mistake was going to cost her a harrowing trip down the mountain road. Even after reaching Cleary, weather would probably factor into her long drive back to Atlanta. Having dispatched her business here, she was anxious to get home, return to her routine, get on with her life. Her office would be a bog of backed-up paperwork, Email, and projects, all demanding her immediate attention. But rather than dreading her return, she looked forward to tackling the tasks waiting on her.
Besides being homesick for her work, she was ready to leave Dutch’s hometown. She adored Cleary’s ambiance and the beautiful, mountainous terrain surrounding it. But the people here had known Dutch and his family for generations. As long as she was his wife, she’d been warmly received and accepted. Now that she had divorced him, townsfolk had turned noticeably cool toward her.
Considering how hostile he’d been when he left the cabin, it was past time for her to leave his territory.
Acting hastily, she carried her suitcase into the front room and set it beside the door. Then she gave the cabin one final, rapid inspection, checking to see that everything had been turned off and that nothing belonging to her or Dutch had been overlooked.
Satisfied that everything was in order, she put on her coat and gloves and opened the front door. The wind struck her with a force that stole her breath. As soon as she stepped onto the porch, ice pellets stung her face. She needed to shield her eyes against them, but it was too dark to put on sunglasses. Squinting against the sleet, she carried her suitcase to the car and placed it in the back seat.
Back inside the cabin, she quickly used her inhaler. Breathing cold air could bring on an asthma attack. The inhaler would help prevent that. Then, taking no time for even one last, nostalgic look around, she pulled the door closed and locked the dead bolt with her key.
The interior of her car was as cold as a refrigerator. She started the motor but had to wait for the defroster to warm before she could go anywhere; the windshield was completely iced over. Pulling her coat more closely around her, she buried her nose and mouth in the collar and concentrated on breathing evenly. Her teeth were chattering, and she couldn’t control her shivers.
Finally the air from the car’s defroster became warm enough to melt the ice on the windshield into a slush, which her windshield wipers were able to sweep away. They couldn’t, however, keep up with the volume of freezing precipitation. Her visibility was sorely limited, but it wasn’t going to improve until she reached lower elevations. She had no choice but to start down the winding Mountain Laurel Road.
It was familiar to her, but she’d never driven it when it was icy. She leaned forward beyond the steering wheel, peering through the frosted windshield, straining to see beyond the hood ornament. On the switchbacks, she hugged the right shoulder and rocky embankment, knowing that on the opposite side of the road were steep drop-offs.
She caught herself holding her breath through the hairpin curves. Inside her gloves, her fingertips were so cold they were numb, but her palms were sweaty as she gripped the steering wheel. Tension made the muscles of her shoulders and neck burn. Her anxious breathing grew more uneven. Hoping to improve her visibility, she rubbed her coat sleeve across the windshield, but all that accomplished was to give her a clearer view of the dizzy swirl of sleet. That’s all she could see. And then suddenly, a human figure leaped from the wooded embankment onto the road directly in her path.
Reflexively she stamped on her brake pedal, remembering too late that braking abruptly was the wrong thing to do on an icy road. The car went into a skid. The figure in her headlights jumped back, trying to get out of the way. Wheels locked, the car slid past him, the back end fish-tailing wildly.
Lilly felt a bump against her rear fender. With a sinking sensation in her stomach, she realized he’d been struck. That was her last sickening thought before the car crashed into a tree.
“Lust, jealousy and murder suffuse Brown’s crisp thriller…” —Publishers Weekly
“The compelling characters, sexual tension and stunning plot twists combine to create a page turner that will keep readers guessing until the end.” —The Sunday Oklahoman
“CHILL FACTOR is a great read anytime, but especially when the temperatures are soaring into triple digits.” —Bookreporter.com
“…Brown has done a skillful job in blending two genres…” —The San Diego Union Tribune
“The suspense builds as Brown’s novel chugs toward a gripping, surprising conclusion.” —Booklist
A Note From Sandra
Set in the mountainous region of western North Carolina. It was in this wilderness that federal agents finally apprehended Eric Rudolph, the man who bombed Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. For years he had escaped capture by hiding in this area. Being familiar with that part of the country, I understood how the sparsely populated, mountainous terrain would provide good cover for someone who wanted to remain elusive — like a serial killer, for instance.
In Chill Factor, Lilly Martin is stranded in her mountain cabin with Ben Tierney, a man suspected of being…you guessed it. They’re marooned during the worst blizzard of record (here’s where the weather became a significant factor), without hope of a timely rescue, totally dependent on each other for their survival.
Tierney is a threat to Lilly on several levels. (I’ll let you think about that for a while.) Even if she withstands the storm, even if she escapes Tierney, she may not survive her so-called rescuers. Among them are a tough FBI agent, the high school football coach whose personal life wouldn’t hold up under close scrutiny, and Lilly’s short-tempered ex-husband who is the local chief of police. All are desperate to reach her and Tierney. But not everyone is desperate to rescue them. I think you’ll agree that the final scenes of this book are some of the most exciting I’ve ever written. Expect high-stakes action along with several shocking revelations.
I spent almost the entire month of February in this area of North Carolina, cozily holed up in a house on the crest of a mountain. I was there specifically to finish the final draft of CHILL FACTOR. For days, my husband and I were the only two people on the mountain — because of an ice storm. The peak was enshrouded in fog. The narrow, winding road down into town was icy and unnavigable. We stockpiled our firewood in case of a power outage. We filled a bath tub with water in the likely event we couldn’t get water from the reservoir. We made sure we had lanterns, flashlights and candles handy. In short, we were doing everything that Lilly and Tierney were doing in the book. Our circumstances were eerily similar. It began to creep me out.
One night, as darkness fell and wind-driven sleet pecked at the windowpanes, I looked askance at my husband, and after thirty-seven years together, I asked myself what I really knew about this man, this stranger. I said,”You haven’t killed anybody lately, have you?” He thought I was joking.