The Big Thaw

Donald Harstad, Author
Donald Harstad, Author Doubleday Books $23.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-49569-1
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Anthony Award nominee Harstad (Eleven Days and Known Dead) makes a third foray to the town of Nation County, Iowa, in this compelling police procedural. One cold winter night, Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman gets a call to join the pursuit of a burglary suspect who's leading the police on a merry car chase. When the suspect drives into a snowy ditch, Houseman digs him out and recognizes him as Fred Grothler, a bored kid who's committed petty crimes in the past. Fred confesses that he and his two cousins, Dirk and Royce Colson, have been responsible for a spate of recent break-ins into the homes of wealthy residents staying warm in Florida. Two nights earlier he dropped his cousins off at Cletus Borglan's palatial farmhouse, but they never came out. Maybe they froze? Houseman visits the farm and indeed finds Dirk and Royce frozen stiff--after having been shot dead. Hardly any of the characters in this busy novel are what they seem. Upstanding citizen Borglan keeps a library whose contents betray his extreme antigovernment views. Even the FBI special agent who takes charge of the case has some strange associates for a lawman. A retired deputy sheriff, Harstad writes ""cop talk"" that's not only believable but often (intentionally) funny. He also supplies plenty of interesting trivia. For instance, half a million quarters, stacked, stretch 4.2 miles and weigh 25,000 pounds. That's what Houseman and Hester Gorse, his second in command, have to secure on the Beauregard, Nation County's floating casino and scene of the book's spectacular finale. (Aug.)
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