Thrills, chills and a (not so impossible?) Olympic tale

New novel Red Snow sets madman loose in Whistler during the Games

Are you ready to save Whistler from a group of international ex-soldiers led by a terrifying megalomaniac? Strap into the shoes - and skis - of thriller author Michael Slade's Special X elite police team and see if you can solve the seven puzzles in Red Snow before Mephisto and his henchmen succeed in ending the 2010 Games in a horrific blood bath.

Red Snow, which was released on Saturday (Jan. 9), opens with the gruesome murder of a snowboarder in Whistler's backcountry and the bloody action doesn't slow down until the final gunshots.

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Sure, it's fiction, but Jay Clarke doesn't think the scenarios in his new book are beyond the realm of possibility. Clarke - a Vancouver-based criminal lawyer who specialized in the law of insanity - is the driving force behind a group of writers who craft Michael Slade's brand of bone-chilling, violent thrillers.

The plot for Red Snow has been brewing in Clarke's mind since Vancouver's bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Clarke said he didn't believe the Vancouver-Whistler bid would win, simply because of the security challenges of venues spread out over a 100-mile area and the necessity to travel the windy, precarious Sea to Sky Highway.

"It's a dangerous setup," Clarke said.

But he said his "whoop" of excitement was even louder than those of local Games organizers when Vancouver and Whistler were chosen as hosts. It was the perfect setup for an isolation thriller - in Red Snow, Mephisto and his evil crew succeed in cutting off highway travel on both sides of the resort. A blinding snowstorm makes air travel impossible, and suddenly everyone in Whistler is vulnerable to Mephisto's sinister plan.

Call it outrageous, but Clarke's yarn was only fuelled by his first research trip to Whistler getting postponed because of the rockslide that closed Highway 99 for a few days in the summer of 2008.

Clarke said his aim for the story was to isolate Whistler, turn Mephisto loose and let him and the Mounties of the Special X force battle it out against the backdrop of the Olympic Games. Readers act as another member of Special X looking to foil Mephisto's plans -and if you can't solve the book's seven whodunits, locked room and dying message puzzles, he'll succeed in his ultimate mission.

The result is a "pedal to the metal thriller" that's got readers on the edge of their seats and reviewers raving. So far, the book hasn't garnered a word of response from VANOC, Clarke said.

There are three categories of Red Snow readers, he speculated: thriller addicts, Olympic detractors and the "rabid Olympic boosters" who want to find out just how badly the novel damages the rings.

Full of snowboard slang and the stereotypical bar flies looking to snag a rich man, Red Snow also pokes a bit of fun at Whistler.

"It's a fantasy Whistler in which I hope that people see the real Whistler, but with a little tweak to it to put a smile on your face," Clarke said.

In the end, Red Snow is meant to be a thrill ride, he said. If you come to the end of the book with your adrenaline pumping and your mind having worked to solve the puzzles, "I've done my job," he said.

"It's all just a means to an end, and the end is entertainment," Clarke added.

Red Snow is the 14th Michael Slade novel and the 13th in the Special X series. For more on Michael Slade, visit www.specialx.net.

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