I Read Fiction

Monday, May 21, 2007

Harstad keeps it real

Code 61 is Donald Harstad's fourth book featuring Harstad's alter ego, Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman.

Harstad won me over with his down-to-earth quirkiness and dry humor. He represents the people and places of northeast Iowa in a way I've seen in person, but never on the page before. Beautiful, yes. Rural midwest, yes. Something slightly skewed.....well, yes. ((think just a twist of Fargo))

Narrator Carl Houseman is middle-aged and overweight. ((That earns him 10 points in my book as a novel hero)) People are rarely murdered in his small town. But Carl's team gets a call about a murder in a mansion. The mansion residents are all young people who share loyalty to Dan Peale, whom they claim is a vampire. Then a vampire hunter shows up in town...

All this is a bit much for Carl. He and State Agent Hester Gorse try to find a solution that does not involve the supernatural.

On the real side: the Mansion, Sny Magill, and both sides of the Mississippi have real counterparts in my neck of the woods. Also real, Harstad's 26 years experience as a deputy sheriff. He comes honestly by all he knows about police procedure. For all that, he is subtle and humble and funny.

By the way, Code 61 is police radio code that requires officers to observe 'radio silence' to avoid alarming the locals. If you aren't into vampire stories, don't let that throw you from this book. Great dialogue. As always, Harstad keeps it real.