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Heartshot (Bill Gastner Mystery #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  513 ratings  ·  78 reviews

Posadas County, New Mexico, hugging the San Cristobal
mountains separating it from Mexico, has very few mean streets. No city-slick
cop shop either, but an earnest, elected Sheriff and his aging Undersheriff,
William C. Gastner. Pushing sixty, and the girth of his Sam Browne uniform
belt, widower Bill has no other life than in law enforcement and doesn t want
one, even if he s

Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Poisoned Pen Press (first published 1991)
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73rd out of 132 books — 40 voters
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Community Reviews

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I'm bumping this up a star because he's a new author for me. It was a solid 3 star book with an interesting hero, a fat old cop who drives himself too hard. Good mystery & motives, neat methods, too. He must have some air time. Made me feel like I was in the cockpit during one memorable event.
L.T. Fawkes
FREE **** An Amazon reviewer said about this book that he stopped reading after the first few paragraphs because the narrator/protagonist, Undersheriff Bill Gastner, is old and fat. I'm ashamed to say I nearly had the same reaction, but I kept reading. The reviewer's loss, my gain. I enjoyed this book.

Gastner is the anti-hero's anti-hero. He eats too much of the wrong stuff, he smokes, and he's made no effort to build any kind of life for himself outside of his work. As the book opens, he's afra
Sharon Michael
Unfortunately for my book budget, this is one of the free downloads that made it to my 'must buy' list after the first book.

The author could have been going down my personal list of 'likes' when he planned this series. Small western town as the setting, sensible representation of modern day county law enforcement and characters and attitudes that fit in this scenario. Main characters are an aging undersheriff and a younger, sensible and bright female deputy, both of whom go about the business of
This is the second book in the Posadas County Mystery series that I have read, even though it is the first book in the series. It was nice to get some of the back story to the characters that I missed by starting with a later book in the series.

I liked this book a lot. It was a fast read - not because it was light, but because the plot was engaging and made me want to finish the book quickly. The characters are well thought out and complex enough to make them real to the reader. The plot to this
This book was such a surprise. Heartshot is the first in a series. When I first saw the cover and read the description I dismissed it as a typical "Western" novel. I love Robert Parker and his Spenser novels and Havill's main character is like a Southwest Spenser. The writing is clean, crisp and well done. Although you as the reader probably know the bad guy by halfway through the novel, Havill does a marvelous job of using that to increase the suspense. I found I couldn't put the book down. Not ...more

Originally published in 1991.

Bill Gastner is the cantankerous, ornery old Undersheriff of Posadas County. An undersheriff is the person right below the elected position of Sheriff and is appointed by the Sheriff. In the case of fictional Posadas County, the Sheriff is a former used car salesman who is a heck of a businessman but does not know much about law enforcement. So, Bill is literally the old hand that knows his way around the law and the county. Also, he is afraid that the Sheriff might
george burns
Good Start

This is the exciting first entry in what looks to be a promising series. Undersheriff Bill Gastner is pushing seventy, overweight and far from fit. With a newly elected sheriff who has no law enforcement experience, Bill is understandably worried about his future. But first, the small sheriff's department has major problems to deal with. Five teenagers die in a car accident while fleeing from a sheriff's deputy. A stash of cocaine is found in the wreck, but who possessed it? The invest
I really enjoyed this book. The mystery is interesting although not too hard to figure out (at least I did which is unusual). However the protagonist is wonderful. It's great to see a 60 something man not grouching about the "young whipper-snapper", instead encouraging the young to learn from him. I'll be reading the rest of the stories in this series.
Robert Scott
Finished 01/23/2013. Posadas County Undersheriff Bill Gastner is on scene after a ghastly car wreck that kills 5 teenagers. Everyone is stunned, but even more so when Deputy Estelle Reyes finds about a kilo of uncut cocaine under the seat of the car. Some of the parents are cooperative, som not, some bitter, some resigned. A high school star athlete is very concern-ed and in the end is murdered because he finds evidence of smuggling in the attempt to assist his killer. A local retired doctor con ...more
Debbie Heaton
In Havill’s mystery novel, Bill Gastner is an undersheriff in Posadas County, New Mexico. When Ricky Fernandez and four other teens die in an unexplained car crash, Bill’s instincts kick into high gear as he realizes there is more here than meets the eye. Before long a bag of cocaine is discovered and the new sheriff—a very publicity hungry lawman—and an inexperienced undercover cop keep Bill hopping. As the pain of loss filters through the community, vigilantes step up to do the sheriff’s job c ...more
The mystery is easy to follow with no sex scenes or cuss words. No overdose of detail or romance. Sheriff Gastner is likable enough and the New Mexico setting makes me want to visit there all the more. The only part that wasn't quite realistic is when Gastner was in a very intense situation in which he displayed little to no anxiety and acting in a way that most people would be shaking under.

It was really no surprise to discover a particular character's involvement when earlier something fishy
He's older, put on some weight, mainly behind the belt buckle, he's a bit crusty. He's the type of guy who walks along, occasionally stubs his toe, yelling loudly, "GOD-DAMN THAT HURTS!", to everyone or no one. He's set in his ways, yet he's not bad at home cooking and he's a widower, .. which explains a lot.

The town, is small, stuck in New Mexico, the cafe food is all right, the parks' got some trees, and a fountain, grass dries out in the summer. Other than that, it's a long way to a museum an
This is another bookswap book, first in a series from what looks like a small independent press.

Our hero is Undersheriff Bill Garstner, the law in a small part of New Mexico where he's rapidly heading towards retirement - in the middle of the small community where he lives, a car crash that claims the lives of five teenagers becomes an even worse tragedy when drugs are discovered and nobody's name is likely to be kept clean. From there, things go from bad to worse as Bill tries to balance his ow
Kathleen Hagen
Heartshot: an Undersheriff Bill Gastner Mystery No. 1, by Steven Havill, B-plus, borrowed from the Library for the Blind, cassettes. Also available commercially as a download from, produced by Books in Motion.

Bill Gastner is the under-sheriff, that is, the one who does the work while the real sheriff is really only good with administration and politics, for Posadas County, New Mexico. Gastner is presented with a tragic accident which shocks the whole town. A car is totaled and burned
Heartshot by Steven Havill is the first book of the Bill Gastner series set in Posadas County New Mexico. Although a police procedural, the story is more about the personalities and relationships of an isolated, close-knit community. Bill Gastner is Undersheriff to newly elected sheriff Martin Holman. At first Gastner is concerned that Holman wants him to retire. As Holman, Gastner and Detective Estelle Reyes work together, they come to appreciate and rely on each other's talents and professiona ...more
This series has been recommended to me over the years and gave this one a try.

This was an OK mystery set in small town New Mexico featuring Undersheriff Bill Gastner. Drugs found at the site of a fatal car crash (local teenagers) leads to an investigation into multiple deaths.

Author Havill has a few places where he needs to "research dump" lots of knowledge about forensics and airplanes which I found overdone. Overall, good vibes from the sense of place and community.
Cosy police procedurals set in southern New Mexico within spitting distance of Mexico. Aging, overweight smoker insomniac undersheriff Bill Gastner of Posadas county manages to survive heart attack and exhaustion to bring down the bad drug smuggling guys. Yes this title came out in 1991 and yes some of the procedures are dated 25 years later. The delights of small town libraries: they hang onto local long after any bigger library would have discarded and moved on.
Gerry Nelson
Another gem from Steven Haville!

Six kids are killed in auto wreck. A large amount of cocain is found in car. Investigation reveals that a friend In the past died of overdose, and another friend of those in the car is found dead, apparently from suicide. Bill suffers heart attack trying to find the murderer. Havill's characters come to life from the pages of his books, and the reader finds himself engrossed in the stories.
S Postma
These books take Bill Gastner from 'Under-sheriff' to 'Sheriff' to 'Retired sheriff'. This is my favorite series, ever! I've loved all the Bill Gastner books!! Estell ones are good, but Bill became a good friend and I was very sad to tell him good-bye. As a female reader, it's quite refreshing to find a male character who isn't looking for a female relationship. I would appreciate more Bill books!!
[library audiobook, plot summary elsewhere]

The book was old, so the absence of cell phones and other details of small town life were a little clunky. A strong female detective was a plus, although she was off stage. The extended sequence about a completely naive pilot landing a plane was interesting technical detail. The plot was a little off. Close to a 4.

Will look for another Havill.
Main character Gastner, his associates, and even the more minor characters are well-developed. The events that drive the mystery and the characters' reactions are very believable and, for that reason, emotionally significant. The setting and the community ring true with the reality of small-town southwest life. The pace of the story is steady, not rushed, so there is time to fully flesh out the significance of new clues. This story kept me interested and ended in a satisfyingly exciting way.
PROTAGONIST: Undersheriff Bill Gastner
SETTING: New Mexico

First in the series.
I borrowed the above format from another reader's review-- seems a good way to start a series review.
I was hooked on this from the first page. The protagonist is great, a set-in-his ways older guy with bad lifestyle habits, the resulting health constraints, but a good work ethic and the professional wisdom of his years. I like to have a hero with heartburn, who has to think twice about scrambling down a hill.
Douglas Cook
Excellent read about a sheriff facing his age and yet still being successful.

First paragraphs
The sheriff leaned against the doorjamb of my office without saying a word, lounging there until I finally decided to notice him. I grunted what could have been a greeting, and that broke my chain of concentration. I punched the wrong goddamn key, swore, wound the platen up, and began to smear the mess on the paper some more with that miserable white correction fluid that flakes all over everything when
#1 in the Posadas County mystery series. This 1991 novel is the debut entry in a series of modern westerns that saw #19 in 2013. The series was recommended to me in 2010 when there were 15 novels in the series; I love starting a series with a lengthy backlist. Fictional Posadas County is in rural NM, close to the Mexican border. The initial lead character is undersheriff Bill Gastner, but detective Estelle Reyes is a strong presence. I highly recommend this series, especially to followers of Bil ...more
Mahree Moyle
I enjoyed this book very much. The main character, which I'm sure reflects the author somewhat, is the type of guy I would love to sit and talk over coffee or a drink. He was down to earth. The story was captivating. I would definitely read from this author again. I like his style and feel for emotion.
I read a lot of mysteries, and I found this one to be a little different. The main character, Under Sheriff Bill Gastner, is certainly different - a sixty-ish, overweight, small-town law officer. He works for an elected Sheriff, a former car salesman, and has a hard-working young woman as clever subordinate. The small town is different - a New Mexico town of Posados, with a good mix of native American and Mexican American residents. Police procedurals are different, with the audio reader giving ...more
the first of the Posadas county series, this was a great read.

I did have my 'money' on the murderer (sorry, no spoilers here, go and read the book!), but was surprised to find out the drug dealer had been his partner in crime... that I did not see coming.

Nice work on the characters - this series really should have made into a TV series as well.

Pretty good. I'd give a 3.5 if I could. First in the series. Like the characters and the author's easy-to-read and understand style. Like watching a good western with Tom Selleck as Bill. Mmmm...(He doesn't have to be dumpy and overweight, not in MY movie.)
C. Stuchl
I've already found the other books in this series and will definitely be getting them. My Kindle reads them to me. I would prefer a male voice, but hey. Loved the characters and the story line. Well developed and well paced. A really good read.
Elaine Mayes
A great beginning to what I hope will be a great series. An "old fart" is the undersheriff in an Arizona county and finds himself dealing with dope dealing and murder. The characters are nicely drawn, the plot moves swiftly and the ending scenes are edge-of-the-seat. I'll be be following the adventures of Bill and Estelle.
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Steven F. Havill is an American author of mysteries and westerns.

Havill lives in Raton, New Mexico, with his wife Kathleen. He has written two series of police procedurals set in the fictional Posadas County, New Mexico; along with other works.

More about Steven F. Havill...

Other Books in the Series

Bill Gastner Mystery (10 books)
  • One Perfect Shot (Bill Gastner Mystery, #.05)
  • Bitter Recoil
  • Twice Buried
  • Before She Dies
  • Privileged to Kill (Bill Gastner Mystery, #5)
  • Prolonged Exposure (Bill Gastner Mystery, #6)
  • Out of Season (Bill Gastner Mystery, #7)
  • Dead Weight (Bill Gastner Mystery, #8)
  • Bag Limit (Bill Gastner Mystery, #9)
Bitter Recoil Red, Green, or Murder (Posadas County Mystery, #7) Twice Buried Before She Dies Scavengers (Posadas County Mystery, #1)

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