A Long December – published October 7, 2003

The people of Nation County, Iowa-a heartland town straight out of a Coen Brothers movie or a John Cougar Mellencamp song-practice a A Long Decemberunique brand of American stoicism. You betcha. And they rely upon their public servants to shield them from the horrors of the outside world. Carl Houseman, deputy sheriff of the 750-square-mile county, dedicates his life to keeping his citizenry so secure that you can leave the door unlocked at home and walk his streets with a big hello and a smile to every stranger. On Houseman’s watch, the mounting terrors of the new world order stay far away.

But December 2001 could change all of that. Outsiders are everywhere. The meat plant is now kosher and there are more Jewish fellows per capita than any other place in the country. Hispanic and other foreign workers, with dubious immigration papers, have taken jobs from the locals. Eighteen other languages are now spoken within the tiny region, and Carl and company can’t speak a single one.

Then the eighty-odd-year-old Heinman brothers’ call comes in from their farm down in Frog Hollow. They’ve witnessed an execution-style killing not one hundred yards from their pig feeders. The victim’s awful dead and half his head’s been blown off. The boys haven’t seen nothing like it since Normandy. When Carl gets to the scene, he believes them.

What follows is a masterful police procedural thriller-think Joe Wambaugh crossed with Fargo-written with a singular and authentic voice that has electrified readers around the world.

From Booklist

Harstad is at the top of his game in this captivating fifth case for rural Iowa deputy sheriff Carl Houseman. It all begins when Carl and state agent Hester Gorse get a call to come out to the Heinmen boys’ farm, where they find “one dead, and I mean really dead, dude lying in the roadway.” ¬†This is a thoroughly believable and compelling police procedural from the American heartland’s answer to Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin and Henning Mankell.

David Wright
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