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on 13 August 2001
Wow, another cracker from Donald Harstad. Following Carl Houseman through yet another crime packed novel, this time with the help of the FBI et al. Although the book has it's nasty parts, there is much humour through the book and the way in which Carl talks you through mystery double murder makes this book a classic, I can't wait for his next novel!
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on 26 May 2003
It's cold in Iowa, and you may want to wear a pair of warm gloves while reading this Carl Houseman novel in order to avoid frostbite. You can almost feel the blanket of snow covering the roads and smell the coffee brewing back at the station as Maitland's favorite Deputy Sheriff returns for a third entry in Donald Harstad's fine series.
A break-in at a rural Iowa farm where no one is home will leave two burglers dead, murdered execution style, and Houseman with only one suspect, who he believes is innocent. Only when the vague Special Agent Volont from Harstad's previous entry, Known Dead, arrives does Houseman discover the one man army named Gabriel has returned to Nation County.
DCI Agent Hester Gorse returns, as does Carl's boss Lamar, capable dispatcher, Sally, FBI Agent George, and reporter Nancy Mitchell, who looks to be a very interesting addition to this very enjoyable series. The rural atmosphere and Houseman's self-deprecating humor during tense situations are the trademark of Harstad's novels.
A moonlight chase on snowmobiles, an autopsy viewed by Houseman, Nancy and her photographer Shamrock, and the simultanious robbery of a bank and a gambling ship will all lead right back to the snow covered farmhouse where this all began, and a final confrontation with the always dangerous Gabriel.
This is a cold one, but a good one. Wearing long johns is optional, but highly recommended!
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on 14 September 2000
I enjoyed "Known Dead", Mr. Harstad's previous book, enough to buy two more copies as gifts. I'm happy now to see I'll have to order two more copies of "The Big Thaw" as follow up gifts. If you haven't read "Know Dead" I would suggest reading it before "The Big Thaw". Of course it isn't necessary to know the earlier book to enjoy this one, but it is a double pleasure, as some of the characters and action continue from the earlier book.
This time out, we are once again treated to a view of a small community's law enforcement efforts with attendant lack of resources and people, but this time in the midst of a brutal winter. As in his previous books, it is Mr. Harstad's sense of humanity, and his obvious expertise in Police work, that comes through in his writing. Carl Houseman, the adroit deputy sheriff hero of three books by Mr. Harstad, is disarmingly self-deprecating and breezily conversational, in a laid-back, homey manner, snacking on the occasional forbidden doughnut and divulging pointers on crime scene investigation as easily as recipes for couscous and low-fat hot-dogs, while his actions show him to be a consummately professional investigator and Deputy Sheriff.
Carl is not a half-bad politician either, managing to get what he needs most of the time, while at the mercy of the bureaucratic whimsy of multiple State and Federal agencies and even the personal vagaries of a maladroit ex-superior, now unsurprisingly promoted to the State level.
What these books really have going for them though is both a good read, and you care. You're interested in the action but you can also like characters such as Hester and George and Lamar, and wonder about the "long suffering" Sue. Carl himself is believable, and smart, and a good man, and you want him to win.
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on 9 March 2002
fast moving,amusing, scary in parts, carl houseman makes a great hero who usally gets his man with hinderence from the FBI.Could not put it down.
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on 3 December 2009
Starting with Eleven Days I have read all 5 of Harstad's novels - I think this was the second - and have enjoyed them very much. His style really is in the minutiae of solving the crimes he portrays and this, for the most part, is most intriguing. His main foil, the detective Carl Houseman, and his female Fed sidekick are also very believable too. Well worth reading if you like the genre.
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on 21 November 2014
A truly awful police procedural 'thriller'. It was average until about 2/3 of the way through a bad guy from a previous, unread Harstad novel parachutes in and it goes rapidly downhill (like a slalom!) from there. I skimmed the last 40 pages to the predictable end, where no motivation was offered for why the bad girls and guys were the way they were. Truly awful and now pulped and consigned to the wood burner.
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on 17 January 2001
This book is written in the style of a pedantic police officer giving evidence in court, painstaking,plodding, and mildly self-congratulatory. The subject matter and plot could have been transformed into an interesting story by a writer with some flair and imagination. Basically boring, I shall avoid Mr. Harstad's books in future
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