CSI: Crime Scene Investigation #3: Cold Burn

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation #3: Cold Burn

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by Max Allan Collins
     
 

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Remote. Peaceful. Picturesque. That's how the Mumford Mountain Hotel bills itself in its brochure, and it lives up to its billing — most of the time. But this year, the hotel is hosting a prestigious conference for the study of forensic science, and the organizers have extended CSI head Gil Grissom an invitation he can't refuse. Joined by fellow investigator

Overview

Remote. Peaceful. Picturesque. That's how the Mumford Mountain Hotel bills itself in its brochure, and it lives up to its billing — most of the time. But this year, the hotel is hosting a prestigious conference for the study of forensic science, and the organizers have extended CSI head Gil Grissom an invitation he can't refuse. Joined by fellow investigator Sara Sidle, Grissom leaves the department in the capable hands of Catherine Willows and heads east. But he and Sara soon find themselves in all too familiar territory — and back in Las Vegas, Catherine, Warrick Brown, and Nick Stokes have uncovered trouble of their own.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743444071
Publisher:
Pocket Star
Publication date:
04/01/2003
Series:
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Series , #3
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,392,783
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Like the beacon over Bethlehem, the fallen but bright star called Las Vegas had long ago guided wise guys from the east to this unholy city where Christmas of a sort was celebrated year-round. Ever since Ben "Bugsy" Siegel had died for the sins of tourists everywhere, men had journeyed across the desert, lured by the glowing neon temples called FLAMINGO and SANDS and CAESAR'S, summoned by celestial bodies with names like Liberace and Sinatra and Darin, to worship at the altar of the elusive fast buck.

Right now, with Christmas less than a month away, gamblers were high-rolling into town like a horde of last-minute shoppers, bucking the odds and dreaming of a green Christmas.

Driving through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in the predawn darkness, Ranger Ally Scott — like most residents of Las Vegas — was contemplating the upcoming holiday in terms that had nothing to do with gambling. That is, except for the gamble she would take buying anything for her perennially hard-to-shop-for father. Then there was her sister Elisa...a gift certificate, that would just be cold.

Which was exactly what Ally was at the moment. She didn't have the Park Service Bronco's heater on and the vehicle's interior wasn't any warmer than the night she plowed through, the temperature hovering around a crisp forty. Ally had bundled her-self up in her heavy jacket and Thinsulate gloves, but like so much of the Las Vegas population she had grown up somewhere else. Iowa in her case — so she damn well knew the difference between real winter and what Las Vegans only thought was winter.

Thin, practically scrawny, and barely over the mandatory Ranger height minimum, Ally enjoyed the relative chill of the December Vegas night as she tooled along the two-lane blacktop that snaked its way through the entire twenty-mile length of the Lake Mead facility.

The flat-brimmed campaign hat covered most of Ally's blonde hair, the rest ponytailed back and tucked inside the collar of her jacket.

Ally had joined the Park Service right out of college and had spent the six years since then working her way up the ladder. Barely a year ago, after bouncing from station to station in the Southwest, she'd landed this plum assignment, here at Lake Mead. Now and then, she drew the night shift like this, but she didn't mind. She was comfortable in her own company.

Headlights slashing the darkness, the Bronco rounded a curve, and the ranger felt (more than actually saw) a blur of motion to her left. Slamming on the brakes, she jolted the vehicle to a stop just as a creature tore across the road in front of her and disappeared into the blackness to her right.

Coyote.

Out here, the lights of the city were a glow on the horizon; otherwise, under a moonless desert sky scattered with half-hearted stars, the landscape remained a mystery. Still, Ally felt something — off to the passenger side of the Bronco.

With the windows rolled up, she could hear nothing, yet her well-trained senses were tingling. Was that...something? Some muffled sound, out there in the night...?

She shoved the gearshift into park, let out a deep breath, and pretended the goosebumps on her arms were from the cold. Opening the driver-side door, she dropped onto the blacktop and stilled as she listened, intently. At first, only the wind whipping through the foothills, like the ghost of a mule train driver thrashing his team, broke the silence. Then, between lashes of wind, Ally heard something else....

Something animal.

The ranger unsnapped her holster and rested her hand on the butt of her Smith and Wesson model 10, like a western gunfighter ready for the worst. Though most cops these days carried automatics, Glocks, Brownings, the Park Service still issued their rangers traditional, standard Smith and Wesson six-shooters with four-inch barrels. Ally wished she had something with a little more stopping power and, considering her prowess with the weapon, several more rounds at her disposal.

Stepping cautiously, quietly around the open door and walking to the front of the Bronco, Ally could see nothing, although her ears picked up something, something that might have been a far-off conversation. No words could be made out, but the ranger thought she heard voices....

Then, in one chilling moment, she understood what the "talk" was. The coyote that'd crossed her Bronco's path was over there, and the creature wasn't alone — a minor critter convention was under way. Ally didn't bother pretending that the shiver up her spine was caused by the wintry wind.

Ally clambered back into the Bronco and slipped the gearshift into reverse, backing the vehicle, blocking the road, and cranking the wheel so the front beams threw their small but insistent spotlights up onto the desert hillside.

Six...no, seven coyotes huddled around and hunkered over a large white lump on the ground. For just a moment, the shape was abstract in the harsh headlights. Then Ally knew. As acid rose in her stomach, Ally Scott recognized the lump as human flesh — the nude body of a woman, sprawled on her side.

The body wasn't moving.

Even with the presence of the coyotes, Ally held out hope that the woman might still be alive, that this was an unconscious body and not a dead one, despite the scavengers. She again hopped down from the Bronco, pulling her pistol to fire a round into the night sky.

The shot splitting the night and then echoing across the desert did get the attention of the animals, the coyotes' heads popping up, turning in her direction...but it didn't spook or disperse them.

Ally lowered the pistol and fired off another round, only a foot or so over the heads of the coyotes this time. The critters jumped and moved away, a few feet, claws scratching the desert floor, but most still lingered near the prone nude form.

And that pissed Ally off.

She charged right at them, screaming and firing off several more shots, and the animals finally took the hint, relinquishing their prize, and scampering like evil puppies into the night.

Making more noise than necessary, to help make sure the scavengers didn't return, Ally pulled off a glove and knelt next to the body. The woman — a brunette — appeared to be dead, after all. She lay on her side, as though she were sleeping...but she wasn't. Reaching down, Ally touched the woman's neck and, trained cop though she was, drew back her hand quickly as if she'd touched a hot stove.

What she had sensed was quite the opposite — the flesh felt more like cold rubber than anything warm and human. The woman's lank hair felt damp — had the woman crawled up here from the lake? Was this some skinny-dipping party gone awry?

Ally's stomach flipped and the ranger knew that her supper was about to make a return trip. She started panting on purpose, like a dog, just like her orthodontist had taught her back when she was a teenager getting braces. While Dr. McPike had taken that mold of her mouth, he'd instructed her that panting would help her overcome her gag reflex.

You just never know, she thought, when these little life lessons are going to come in handy.

Ally searched for a pulse — finding nothing stirring under the cold, clammy flesh. This was a dead body, clearly...and that put Ally right smack in the middle of what she knew damn well was a crime scene. The urge to drag the body back to the Bronco was nearly overwhelming, but Ally knew not to disturb the scene any more than she already had, rushing in to chase off the coyotes.

Pistol still in her hand, Ally backed carefully to the vehicle, her eyes sweeping the dark beyond the body and the Bronco beams, just waiting for the first coyote to creep back into the wash of the car's headlights, for her to pick off. She knew, too, that if this was a murder, the perpetrator could possibly still be in the area...though she doubted that. The coyotes wouldn't have made their move until they were alone with the corpse.

Her eyes still searching the hill, Ally reached inside, plucked the mike from its dashboard perch, pulled the long cord out so she'd have an unobstructed view of the body and pushed the talk button.

"Dispatch," she said, "this is mobile two."

No response from the base.

"Dispatch, this is mobile two. Aaron, it's your wake-up call! Get off your ass — I found a dead body."

The low-pitched male voice sounded groggy, which was hardly a surprise. "Ally? What the hell did you say?"

"Call the city cops, Aaron — we got a d.b."

A summer intern brought back on temporarily to help out during the holiday vacations, Aaron Davis had little experience beyond handing out maps to tourists and flirting with teenage girls come to swim in the lake.

"Aren't we supposed to notify the FBI, Ally?"

The mild irritation Ally felt was a relief compared to the creepiness that had come over her, touching that cold corpse.

"We will, Aaron," she said with feigned patience, "but the Fibbies won't make it for days." She sighed. "The Vegas P.D. will be here within the hour. Call 911."

"But we're the cops, aren't we, Ally?"

"Well...I am."

"You mean, cops can call 911, too?"

"Aaron...just make the call. Then you can go back to sleep."

"You don't have to be mean," Aaron said.

She clicked off then and the ridiculousness of the conversation made her laugh. She laughed and laughed, tears rolling down her cheeks, and then she thought to herself, Laughin' like a damn hyena, and that made her think of the coyotes.

And then she didn't laugh any more.

She just watched the still white lump of flesh, guarding it from scavengers. Ally Scott could protect the dead woman from the coyotes, no problem; but if the woman was a murder victim, it would take a different breed of cop to find the animal who had done this.

Copyright © 2003 by CBS Worldwide Inc.

Meet the Author

Max Allan Collins is a New York Times bestselling author of original mysteries, a Shamus award winner and an experienced author of movie adaptions and tie-in novels. His graphic novel Road to Perdition has been made into a major motion picture by Tom Hank’s production company. He is also the author of the tie-in novel series based on the original CSI.

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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Book #3: Cold Burn 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
ChiefTiz More than 1 year ago
Max Allan Collins is a Super Writer! Being such a huge CSI TV Fan I jumped into the book series and have thoroughly enjoyed the readings. GREAT Book and storyline!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the Sherlock Holmes references.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Another good, fast read in the CSI series of books.

Grissom and Sara Sidle are off to the wilds of outer New York to attend a forensic conference, but when a record snowstorm strands them, along with a Canadian forensic expert and the owners of the Mumford Mountain Hotel with a dead body and numerous suspects, things get a little dicey.

Back in Las Vegas, Catherine, Nick, and Warrick are dealing with a missing persons case that's turned into a homicide investigation with the discovery of the wealthy housewife's body.

Well worth the read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I love CSI! This is the first book of CSI I have read and it was great! I really loved it and I say anybody who loves the tv series must read the books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. One thing I liked about this book is that Grissom and Sara are on the same case. Usually, they are split up and work separate cases. Another thing I liked is the involvement of other CSI's. I liked the outside help. I think it helps the book move along. One thing I didn't like about the book is that it had a slow start. If the first two chapters would have had a better start, I would have rated it higher. Also, the book was a little long for my taste. If it would have been around 200 pages, I would have stayed interested all of the way through. I highly recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was one of the best books I have ever read so far in the CSI series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think it was a very good book. It has Grissom and Sarah working together which you don't usualy see. Also it has a twisted story of two friends an their husbands. And another story of 2 males an a female. Both stories are almost like a love triangle but they both have a twist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book, it features Grissom and Sara together which is not normal; they usually are on different cases. This pairing added some humor to the bleak murdery at Mumford Mountain Hotel. Anothe great book by Max Allan Collins!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was really good after i got into it. I thought that it had kind of a slow starting. Other then that it was GOOD.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. I really enjoyed reading it. I hope to read more of the CSI books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an awesome book. I could imagine the characters and actions. I cant wait to read future novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic. If it isn't the best book I've ever read, it's incredibly close. Cold Burn could be a gruesome book, however, Collins' additions of subtle humor keep it light and even more enjoyable. In a nut shell, it's the perfect book for anyone who loves CSI.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As the writer chosen to novelize the very popular CSI: Crime Scene Investigators series, Max Allan Collins has had a difficult task to perform. He has been forced to delve into the minds of characters whose emotions are little revealed on the television series. In his first two books, he found the correct balance of intrigue, characterization, show loyalty and mystery, and hence created some very entertaining stories. But CSI: Cold Burn does not possess the same qualities as its predecessor novels. It feels rushed at times; the murders become mundane and the plot resolutions completely predictable. There is almost no comparison with the fast-paced, enjoyable sister novels to this series. It was a disappointing read, particularly for a fan of Mr. Collins. This one isn't worth the time--buy the first two, and check this one out from the library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cold Burn is one of the best books that I have ever read. The story line and plot twists are unreal, they were great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle are going to the Mumford Mountain Hotel's conference of forensic science. But soon, he and Sara find themselves in all too familar terroritory. Back in Las Vegas, Catherine Willows, who Grissom has left the department in the capable hands of, Warrik Brown, and Nick Stokes have also uncovered trouble. Wasn't the Mumford Mountain Hotel once known as remote, peaceful, and picturesque? Then why isn't it living up to it's billing?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle are going to the Mumford Mountain Hotel's conference of forensic science. But soon, he and Sara find themselves in all too familar terroritory. Back in Las Vegas, Catherine Willows, who Grissom has left the department in the capable hands of, Warrik Brown, and Nick Stokes have also uncovered trouble. Wasn't the Mumford Mountain Hotel once known as remote, peaceful, and picturesque? Then why isn't it living up to it's billing?