Set in and around Houston, Chill Factor opens with a fifty-five-year-old divorcee calmly waiting her turn in line at a bank, pointing a gun at the teller, and escaping with money bags she drops in a deserted alley. Police alerted to the robbery soon surround her; she fires her gun, they fire back, and she is dead. The next day in a nearby bank the same scenario occurs. Dixie Flannigan is in the bank at the time and recognizes her widowed neighbor, Edna Pine, whose fate after she leaves the bank is precisely that of the woman the day before. Dixie’s own curiosity, as well the insistence of Edna’s son Marty, with whom Dixie had grown up, make her determined to find out why a nice woman like Edna had robbed a bank. And besides, what happened to the money?
As a former prosecutor turned bond enforcement agent, Dixie has had considerable experience with criminals, but none quite like the white collar techno-crooks, elaborate con artists, and fanatic cult members she faces here. And the worst of it is she almost succumbs to one charismatic leader, especially after he laces her tea with drugs designed specifically for such purposes.
Dixie has a snappy sense of humor and a brassy sense of justice. Her main failing perhaps is that she so often acts the hard-boiled detective rather than ask for help, but that of course tightens the suspense readers feel for the likeable heroine.