Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Code 61Code 61 by Donald Harstad
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I tend to assume that any literary or cinematographic work that involves vampires is not suited for adults. For me, vampires, zombies, witches, etc. belong in children's books. There has been one exception to my blanket disdain for the vampire genre: the movie "Let the Right One In", which is about vampires, but in a totally non-adolescent way.

Donald Harstad's "Code 61" involves vampires in rural Iowa, where Carl Houseman is the department's investigator and senior officer of the Nation County sheriff's office. The novel begins with a strange case of a young woman calling sheriff's deputies because "a white man with teeth" peeked at her through the window. Soon, Carl and his team are faced with two deaths with similar neck wounds, one of the victims being the sheriff's niece. The case soon becomes even more bizarre.

I rated Mr. Harstad's two first works, "Known Dead" and "Eleven Days " very highly (4 stars, both reviews are on Goodreads). The author spent 26 years as a deputy in a sheriff's department in Iowa, and in these two books he wrote about things he was familiar with. These books are pure police procedurals with strong emphasis on the procedure. The author does not mention the deputies' private lives at all, and the books read, basically, like police reports.

Unfortunately, in "Code 61" Mr. Harstad tries to add a "human interest" aspect, and it just does not work. Also, the plot has many weak moments; for instance, the deputies' pursuit of the bad guy resembles a bunch of nine-year-olds playing hide and seek, and the appearances of Mr. Chester conveniently further or stop the plot, when needed. The quality of dialogues in the conversation between Carl, Hester, and Harry is dismal. The silliness of the whole vampire shtick does not help. I had to force myself to read the final two chapters, which show the solution of the mystery.

Two stars.

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