cover image Eleven Days: A Novel of the Heartland

Eleven Days: A Novel of the Heartland

Donald Harstad. Doubleday Books, $22.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48894-5

The first half of Harstad's good-natured debut may read like Fargo meets Dragnet, but this police procedural turns downright explosive once deputy sheriff Carl Houseman gets to the heart of the strange murders that are tearing apart his small Iowa farming town. The action begins when a 911 call leads Houseman to the site of a ritual murder with multiple victims and no witnesses left in sight; further evidence reveals that an infant may have been sacrificed and that other victims will follow. The first round of police work leads Houseman and his colleagues to the members of a devilish cult, but the serial killer remains at large until Houseman comes to suspect the town pastor and his wife. What follows is an intriguing, suspenseful showdown at a local church. Harstad's deceptively sparse style is full of hard-boiled drollery, even when mundane details threaten to crowd the plot. If the labyrinthine network of Satanic cult members gets a bit too involved, the descriptions of the police work rival Wambaugh's best, and the action scenes maintain a precision that keeps the tension high. After 26 years' police work in northeastern Iowa, Harstad seems poised for a successful second career. (July)