by Jean Henry Mead
Weather can serve as an antagonist in any novel, whether it's mystery, suspense, thriller or other genres, and I've used precipitation in all its forms in my own books.
In my first mystery, A Village Shattered, the opaque San Joaquin fog hides a serial killer, but I didn’t even think about the fog until I was writing chapter three. Having lived in the valley for a dozen years, I know the horror of driving in pea soup (tule) fog, so I switched seasons and returned to chapter one to add fog to the plot. In doing so, it tied all aspects of the story together.
In Diary of Murder, my second mystery, I took my sleuths out of California and placed them in a motorhome in the middle of a Rocky Mountain blizzard. Fortunately, I had actually experienced the mishap so I could write convincingly about it. The blizzard starts the novel off with suspense, but my sleuths face a similar fate later in the plot, so I had to swap some snowy details between the first and later chapters to prevent repetition.Weather plays a large role in any northern state, and can provide an element of danger.
Murder on the Interstate follows with Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty getting caught in a flash flood in Arizona, where their rented Hummer is swept away. That actually happened to a friend whose experience convinced me to add the downpour to my storyline.
Snow also presents a problem for my intrepid amateur sleuths in Gray Wolf Mountain where they track a shooter who kills not only wolves but people. Victims of the shooter themselves, the two women are rescued by a quirky old man who rescues wounded wolves and nurses them back to health.
Murder in RV Paradise is set in Texas where the sun can fry tortillas on the hood of one's pickup truck. When my senior sleuths pull a woman's body from one of the small lakes the day of their arrival, they have to deal with not only the heat but suspicion that they committed the murder.
And, finally, Murder at the Mansion finds Dana and Sarah fleeing a killer in Wyoming after a tornado destroys Dana's mansion. The two women wind up in a snowy backwoods cabin in the Alaskan outback where they find themselves in even greater danger. My trip to Fairbanks, where I experienced an ice storm and extreme cold, helped to bring this sixth and final series novel to a suspenseful conclusion.
I had heard before I wrote my first novel that you should never start your book with weather, but I've found that severe weather can enhance a mystery/suspense novel by fine tuning characters' reactions to it. Man or woman against nature has always intrigued readers.