The Big Thaw by Donald Harstad
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Donald Harstad is the author of two very good police procedurals, "Known Dead" and "Eleven Days" (I have reviewed these 4-star novels on Goodreads) . He is also the author of lame and silly "Code 61", with a plot that includes references to vampires. A 26-year-veteran of Sheriff's Department in an Iowa County, he is at his best when he writes about the actual procedure when the sheriff's deputies are working on solving a case. I was hoping "The Big Thaw" will be more like the first two books rather than the vampire idiocy. It falls somewhere in between.
The book reads great for the first 150 pages or so. Two frozen bodies are found, packed in a tarp in an empty Iowa farmhouse. The victims seem to have been executed. The narrator, Carl Houseman, the senior deputy at the Nation County Sheriff's Office, does not believe the main suspect, a small-time burglar, is the culprit. Then, quite suddenly, the novel turns from riveting to ridiculous. Deputy Houseman asks a journalist and a photographer to help him in solving the case. Some plot twists of "The Big Thaw" would rather belong in a cheap James Patterson's novel.
Fortunately, the extended ending sequence is written much better as it again focuses on procedure. We get delightful passages about how the Bad Guys make fools of the combined and bumbling forces of the Sheriff's Office and other agencies. Mr. Harstad certainly knows from his own experience how calamitous the cooperation between different agencies might be.
Overall, an interesting and pleasant read, and somewhat believable plot, except for a few ludicrous twists.
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