The Big Thaw

The Big Thaw

by Donald Harstad

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553583038
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/01/2001
Series: Carl Houseman Series , #3
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 571,676
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Donald Harstad is a twenty-six-year veteran of the Clayton County Sheriff's Department in northeastern Iowa, and the author of the acclaimed novels Eleven Days and Known Dead. A former deputy sheriff, Harstad lives with his wife, Mary, in Elkader, Iowa.

Read an Excerpt

Monday, January 12, 1998, 2309

About a minute after I got settled in bed, I heard a faint scratching sound. It took me a second to realize that I'd left my police walkie-talkie on. It was sitting in its charger, about fifteen feet from the bed. I thought about getting up and turning it off, but there were several reasons I didn't. First, Sue was already asleep beside me, and I didn't want to wake her by moving around some more. Second, the intermittent transmissions by the bored dispatcher were kind of soothing, in a distant way. I could hear her talk, but the volume was set so low, I couldn't make out the words. Perfect. Third, I was just too damned tired to get up.

I was getting to that presleep stage, when the pitch of the dispatcher's voice began to rise. After a moment, she began to speak rapidly, excitedly to cars that were apparently too far away for me to hear. I sat up, and listened for a moment. Still couldn't make out the content, and now I just had to find out. I swung my legs off the bed, got up, and padded over to the little radio. Just in time to be able to make out the Maitland car, which was within a quarter mile of me, asking a question.

"Comm, Twenty-five, what's going on?"

"Twenty-five, Five and Nine are in pursuit of a burglary suspect, out on the old Grange road."

I knew what was coming, and was reaching for the phone when it rang.

"They want some assistance, and Lamar said to call you, since it might involve a burglary investigation. They started the chase about five minutes ago down by Hellman's curve, and they've been going up..."

"Okay..." I interrupted, "just let me get dressed ... give me directions after I'm in the car..."

"Ten-four..." She was new, and newbies had a tendency to use ten codes over the phone.

"Wear your long johns, it's getting really cold."

"Yeah..." as I hung up the phone.

"Who was that?" mumbled Sue.

"Gotta go ... they're chasing a guy and need help." I reached into my drawer and pulled out my long underwear. I pulled it on, and put on two pair of socks.

"Dress warm..." came a mumbled caution from Sue, who was going back to sleep.

"Yep..." I pulled on my uniform trousers, which had the utility belt attached, and were hanging next to the bed. On with the laced Gore-Tex boots, stand, slip on the turtlenecked jersey shirt, grab the uniform shirt, pull the pants up, tuck everything in, pull the "woolly-pully" sweater over my head, and I was heading down stairs less than three minutes after the phone had rung. On the way to the back door, I grabbed my handgun out of the drawer, and inserted a magazine. I pulled back the slide to chamber a round, pressed the hammer drop, and shoved it into my holster. I pulled my little walkie-talkie out of its charger, and grabbed my recharging flashlight from the shelf by the door as I left the house. When I opened the door, it was like walking into a wall of cold air.

"Boy," I breathed to myself. Marsha's "really cold" hadn't done it justice. I used my sweater sleeve to protect my hand as I opened the car door. Even in the garage, it wasn't smart to touch metal in this weather. I turned the key, and the engine took right off. Back out of the car, unplugging the engine heater, then hit the button to open the door.

In the car, turned on the defroster, set the temperature to high, turned on the headlights, dropped the rechargeable flashlight into its charger on the dash, rear-window defroster to "on." I turned on my flashing headlights and red dash and rear-window lights as I backed out. Then the police car radio.

"...onto Willims road, but not sure..." came blasting over the speaker. Sounded like Five's voice.

I waited a beat to make sure the radio traffic was clear, then picked up the mike and told the office that I was back at work. "Three's ten-eight. Comm," I said, "where you want me?" Hopefully I would be able to get ahead of the chase from here in Maitland, and not end up following the pack.

"Stand by, Three," crackled the voice.

She had no choice, but I was already at the main intersection leading out of Maitland, so I had to stop and wait to be told which way to turn. Frustrating, but not a lot could be done about it. I fastened my seat belt and shoulder harness.

"Five," she asked, "where do you want Three to go?"

As luck would have it, he was close enough for me to hear his transmissions, so Marsha wasn't going to have to rebroadcast everything we said.

"Tell him to head north, toward the Whiskey 6 Victor intersection, then west toward the County Line road..."

"Three's direct," I snapped, saving Marsha and the rest of us a little time.

"Three, Five, I've been behind this idiot for almost eight miles. New snow, can't see him anymore, but I'm following the tracks and the cloud of snow." Nine struggled.

"Ten-four." Been there. With new snow, the first thing you lose in a chase is the taillights of the vehicle you're chasing. Snow packs up on the rear of the suspect vehicle, and they just fade out. Quickly. Then, if the car you're chasing is moving fairly fast, they throw up a rooster tail of snow, and you don't even get to see the reflections from their headlights. The good news is that the tracks they leave make it virtually impossible to lose their direction of travel. It's just that you can't be sure how far ahead they actually are. So, to avoid running into the back of them at a high rate of speed, you tend to get a little cautious. Because of that, they tend to lengthen their lead.

"Any idea how far up he is on you?" I asked.

Five answered. "Probably not more than a mile. I'm doing about sixty, and it's really hard to stay on the road. His tracks look like he's fishtailing a lot on the curves, so he's probably about sixty too."

"Ten-four, and where's Nine at?"

"Ah just tried to cut 'em off and missed..." came Nine's familiar drawl. "Ah'm behind Five somewhere, I think..."

Out of the picture, in other words. Damn.

"You think I can get to the intersection by Ullan's farm, Five, before the suspect gets there?"

"Close..." he said. "Could be close."

Table of Contents

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Big Thaw 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i'm a great lover of suspense novels... i hadn't found one that has thrilled me as much as this novel. i'm working on another of his and looking forward to more. i highly recommend this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I received this book from a family member that recommended it and was not disappointed at all. The reading was easy and kept you involved all the way through to the end. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to read a good mystery. My wife has now picked it up and says the same thing. She can¿t put it down. I am on a third Harstad book and can¿t wait to read his other books. Keep up the good work!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like how this author keeps the story moving.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Many people including Americans think the coastal cities of the United States are cesspools of criminal activity. Those same folks believe the Heartland is filled with honorable individuals where crime is nil or simple pranks. However, Nolan County, Iowa Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman knows that criminals and terrorists can attack anywhere at anytime because he already has had one incident that led to deaths and injuries.

Currently, Houseman struggles with solving the case of who killed two criminals burglarizing a home in which the owners are in Florida. The initial investigation points towards their cousin, the driver. However, that changes when evidence proves that the terrorist Gabriel has returned and was using that home as a base for his next deadly activity.

Houseman narrates this tale and his asides augment the story line by bringing insight and feeling to the investigation. The story line is fast-paced as the tension mounts for law enforcement officials to stop Gabriel before he completes his latest caper. Donald Harstad has written an entertaining police procedural that highlights the American Heartland through the eyes of an endearing hero

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Harstad writes like the real cops I know talk. He nails the sly cop-humor and get it done damn the windchill attitude. Minnesota has Sandfords Virgil Flowers, but Iowa is proud to claim Deputy Houseman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story runs in to some slow spots but the author manages to pull it out wirh some, at times, irrarional behavior by his characters. I will try abnother of his books.
mikedraper on LibraryThing 6 hours ago
In a scene that reminded me of the freezing north in Fargo, Carl Houseman is a deputy sheriff who is called out to what he thought would be a home robbery but he finds the robbers shot, execution style.Cletus Borglan is a wealthy farmer who is into anti government stands against government interference in his life. While he's in Florida his home is borken into. As the investigation slows down, Carl and one of his men stop a snowmobiler who has night goggles and a sound suppressor on his snowmobile. After a confrontation they find the person is an FBI agent, under cover.When the Agent in Charge of the local FBI office arrives at the police station he informs the officers that he's been trailing a man named Gabriel, aka John Henry Nieuhauser who is a bank robber and planning to rob a number of banks in the area.In the second half of the book Carl and his department, and the FBI attempt to stop the robbers. This part of the book was drawn out and the pace slowed down. Harstad's writing style is vivid and picturesque. It's easy for the reader to imagine the scenes unfolding in front on him as if it's on a movie screen.Houseman is an interesting character. I pictured him as John Goodman and enjoyed his humor even more. He is knowledgable but still flawed. It was also an interesting note to see the effect of long hours of investigating on Carl's family life.
KAzevedo on LibraryThing 6 hours ago
I enjoyed the first two books of this series starring Deputy Carl Houseman and set in Iowa. They are totally plot based police procedurals, full of cop jargon, and fairly suspenseful. Houseman is very likable and there is lots of humor to be found, but there is little character development. Sometimes the scenarios become a bit confusing with possible mistakes in the narrative. This one has no more character develpment; all are pretty one-dimensional, including Carl. However, the plot for this one was packed with more suspense and the events are clear in their relationships. The real star of the book is procedure, conveyed in great detail. There is a glossary provided for the many acronyms used with great frequency. Carl again provides humor and everything moves at a pace that precludes boredom. It's a fun read and Harstad's writing has definitely improved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the best one yet. On to the next one. It seems it is the last one offered in e-book form. I hope there is many more to come as I thoroughly enjoy the Housman series.
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MarianHB More than 1 year ago
I love every one of Donald Harstad's books. I wonder why there haven't been any new books that I have seen anyway.
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