In the American heartland, someone is killing cops.
The ambush exploded in an Iowa marijuana field. The weapons were high caliber. The pot was high grade. And the reporters said afterward: "We have two known dead...."
Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman knew the dead all right: One was a small-time doper, the other a good cop. But Houseman doesn't know why they died, or who cut them down in a blaze of automatic rifle fire. Now, as the Feds descend on Nation County, Houseman and his fellow cops are suddenly walking point--searching for answers amidst the violence, treachery, and evil in their own backyard....
Donald Harstad's Eleven Days was called "a hell of a first novel" by Michael Connelly and "truly frightening" by the San Francisco Chronicle. In his electrifying new novel Harstad captures with nerve-shattering power an Iowa police department's harrowing search through a killing storm--to know the truth about the dead and the living alike....
There's a solid core of experience and acquired wisdom in this second mystery (after the well-received Eleven Days) from Harstad, a 26-year veteran of the Clayton County Sheriff's Department in northeastern Iowa. There are also some shortcomings, most notably narrative padding and a tendency toward cuteness. Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman is a sharp, likable 50-year-old Iowan with weight and blood-pressure problems (which get mentioned too often), and strong opinions on every aspect of policingAincluding a hatred for the special prayer called "The Lord Is My Shepherd, He Rides in My Patrol Car" that is recited at cop funerals. Readers first encounter the prayer at the services for an Iowa narcotics agent killed on Houseman's Nation County turf while staking out a marijuana patch in a state park. Blasts of gunfire from mysterious shooters take out the agent and a smalltime dealer. While various federal and state agencies wrestle for control of the case and Harstad overwhelms readers with reams of ballistic evidence, two more Nation County cops are shot down at the farm of a local extremist with links to a large militant group. Between seemingly endless sessions of drinking coffeeAdescribed sip-by-sipAand eating everything from doughnuts to fat-free wieners, Houseman tries to connect the shootings and keep some of the glory for his own office, even as the author provides welcome information on how surveillance helicopters can tell the good guys from the bad guys in the dark (the good guys wear little chemical badges that give off heat). Overall, the novel's a good one and Houseman's an appealing hero, but both book and cop carry excess fat. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Excellent, dramatic and funny
Posted December 27, 2009 by CN , UAEWish this guy wrote more, he has a very real world view - life is tragic, funny and challenging. People do strange things. Donald captures this superbly.
May 01, 2000
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Known Dead by Donald Harstad
My name is Carl Houseman. I'm a deputy sheriff in Nation County, Iowa. I'm also the department's senior investigator, and senior officer, to boot. I'm getting a little sensitive about senior and elder being interchangeable terms. I turned fifty, recently. It's gotten to the point that people ask me whether AARP sells cut-rate ammunition to older cops. Anyway, I'd like to tell you about the killings we had in our county in the summer of '96, and the subsequent investigation that stood the whole state on its ear. This is my version of what happened. It's the right one.
It all started for me on June 19, 1996, about 1500 hours. I had pretty much assigned myself as pickup car for a team of two officers who were conducting surveillance on a cultivated marijuana patch we'd located in Basil State Park. Basil's a large park, about twenty-five square miles, in steep hills, and just about completely covered with thick woods.
At 0458, Special Agent Bill Kellerman, Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, and our Deputy Ken Johansen had been inserted into the park, being dropped off by one of the night cars. The patch itself was located some distance from the road, in a little valley. I'd never been there, but I knew the general location. I'd done surveillance on patches in the past, and was very glad not to have to do this one. It was hot, it was dull, andit was seldom successful. Bill and Ken were good officers, although they both had only a couple of years dope experience, and were pretty anxious to bust this patch. The cultivated area had been observed during a fly-over by a Huey helicopter provided by the Iowa National Guard, under a marijuana eradication program. Ken had been in the chopper when they first discovered the patch wedged in a deep valley, and reported the event to Bill, the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement agent assigned to work undercover in the area. They'd gone in, discovered over a hundred plants, and decided to go for the bust.
The whole purpose of the exercise was to lie in wait and catch the owner of the patch as he or she came into the area to water and tend the plants. We had no idea who that was, though there was some speculation.
I'd picked a hilltop location for my car, about a mile and a half from the two officers in the patch. I couldn't see them, but I could see a large chunk of the park, and the height of my location would ensure that I could receive their walkie-talkie transmissions in the hilly terrain. I'd gone up a long farm lane to an abandoned barn and parked in the bit of shade the barn offered. It was a slow day, and I had gotten into position early. Been there for over an hour, in fact. Quality time. It was ninety-four degrees, and the humidity was about 95 percent. I'd turned off the engine, and air conditioner, so I would make less noise, and sat there trying to use thread to rig a spar for a ship model I was building. I'd given up smoking, and was wishing I hadn't. I had started sweating, and was wishing I hadn't too. I'd opened one of four cans of soda pop I'd brought with me, in a small ice-filled cooler. One for each of us when I picked them up. And a spare for now. I had the driver's door propped open, hoping for a little air. Not even a hint of a breeze. And they shouldn't be ready for pickup for a good half hour yet. I started the first knot in the thread that attached the stuns'l boom to the spar.
I heard a faint pop, then another. Then a whole lot of popping noises, almost like an old lawn mower. I put down the spar, and looked over toward the valley where the patch was. It was very quiet. The slight haze caused the distant features to dance. I checked both sides of the thin ribbon of graveled road that wound toward the pickup point, but I couldn't pin down where the sounds had come from. There were lots of farms surrounding the park, and I thought it was probably a tractor. I was just starting to pick up my spar, when the popping began again. A lot of it. I dropped the spar, and got out and stood alongside my car. I couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. It got very quiet again.
"MAITLAND, FOUR!" my car radio blared, and nearly scared me to death.
No answer. Dispatch probably hadn't heard him, down in his tree-filled hole. Four was the call sign of Johansen. He was transmitting on the AID channel, as instructed. He sounded out of breath and excited. Did they have the suspect? I began to suspect that the popping sound had been a four-wheeler.
I picked up my mike and went on a different channel from Four. "Maitland, Three," I said, "Four has traffic on AID."
"Unable to copy him, Three," came the soft, feminine reply.
I was starting my engine and closing the door. I figured they'd need transport now, for sure.
"MAITLAND, FOUR ON AID!"
He sure sounded excited. I headed the car down the rutted lane as fast as I could. Maybe the suspect had fled, and would be heading toward a vehicle parked somewhere on the gravel road that snaked through the base of the hills.
"He's got traffic, Maitland," I said. He couldn't hear me on the INFO channel, which was fine, as I didn't want to interfere with his talking to the base station on the AID channel.
She heard him on his third attempt.
"Go ahead, Four . . ."
"MAITLAND, THIS IS FOUR . . . THIS IS TEN-THIRTY-THREE, I REPEAT, TEN-THIRTY-THREE! WE'VE BEEN HIT, AUTOMATIC WEAPONS, 688 IS SHOT! I NEED ASSISTANCE, FAST!"
A brief pause.