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by Donald Harstad
Harper Perennial, October 2004
320 pages
ISBN: 1841155489

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A LONG DECEMBER is the fifth in the series featuring Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman. Houseman is the second in command in Iowa's rural National Country Sheriff's Department and is hoping for a quiet Christmas. Alas, this is not to be the case. Firstly, along with state agent Hester Gorse he called to a grisly murder. A body has been found with no visible means of identity and the FBI's interest in the matter makes it even more suspicious. Another death leads them to a Jewish meat packing plant that employs illegal immigrants.

With a wealth of down-to-earth and realistic details and assortment of characters, A LONG DECEMBER is a gripping read. Houseman's somewhat sardonic tone and sensible viewpoint told in first place narration makes it an even more intriguing read. With a keen sense of place, Harstad easily maintains the tension as he interweaves Houseman's meticulous investigation with concise scenes from the volatile face-off that takes place at a dilapidated farm. My only slight quibble is that the author does not really explain who the terrorists are and what their eventual purpose was.

Ever since Harstad burst on to the scene with ELEVEN DAYS, readers have been able to immerse themselves in an admirable police procedural series that has evidently been written by someone who knows what they are talking about. He always manages to draw the reader in quite seductively into his novels and in A LONG DECEMBER, this is no exception.

Harstad is also extremely good at drawing all the threads together without leaving the reader with a sense of trepidation that matters will be left hanging. Topical to the end, this is an adept title for the book as it does indeed turn out to be 'a long December.'

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read from an author whose descriptive skills easily draw the reader into this intriguing novel. In this case, Donald Harstad can be easily rated as amongst the best.

Reviewed by Ayo Onatade, February 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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