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The Big Thaw (Carl Houseman #3)

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  279 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
A killer is placing his cross hairs over the American heartland....

The pair of frozen corpses were found under a tarp in the machine shed of an empty farmhouse. Two males -- brothers -- both killed by bullets from a Russian automatic fired at close range. The cops have a suspect: a man Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman busted five years earlier and the county's lead suspect in
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Bantam (first published August 15th 2000)
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Dec 18, 2015 Janell rated it really liked it
I probably need to preface this review by stating that I am a native Northeast Iowan. And it's about time I got around to reading one of Don Harstad's books as I live just one of the next towns over from where he was employed as a sheriff's deputy before he began his foray into writing. But even though I might have had a little easier time than some, imagining just such a scenario as that which takes place in 'Big Thaw,' I truly enjoyed this mystery set in rural Iowa. I felt Harstad's scenes wer ...more
Rachel Groves
I really enjoyed the writing but hadn't realised that this is the 3rd book in a series when I started it. A lot of series you can start anywhere and go back to read earlier books - but this particular story not only referred to previous happenings a lot but also gave me spoilers about what to expect (who was hurt or killed, who the bad guy was). That took some of the enjoyment out of it for me and got a little repetitive too. I can't say what my rating would have been had I read them in order bu ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Jan 18, 2014 Lukasz Pruski rated it liked it
Donald Harstad is the author of two very good police procedurals, "Known Dead" and "Eleven Days" (I have reviewed these 4-star novels on Goodreads) . He is also the author of lame and silly "Code 61", with a plot that includes references to vampires. A 26-year-veteran of Sheriff's Department in an Iowa County, he is at his best when he writes about the actual procedure when the sheriff's deputies are working on solving a case. I was hoping "The Big Thaw" will be more like the first two books rat ...more
Bobby Underwood
Nov 18, 2014 Bobby Underwood rated it it was amazing
It's cold in Iowa, and you may want to wear a pair of warm gloves while reading Harstad's wintery Carl Houseman novel in order to avoid frostbite. You can almost feel the blanket of snow covering the roads and smell the coffee brewing back at the station as Maitland's favorite Deputy Sheriff returns for a third entry in Donald Harstad's fine series.

A break-in at a rural Iowa farm where no one is home will leave two burglars dead, murdered execution style, and Houseman with a suspect he believes
Oct 21, 2015 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: completed
This is a rather decent police procedural written by a real cop. It offers realism. The fun thing is that it features a lot of cop humor and cop type dialogue.

However, the sad thing is that this is the sequel to another book and that there is a bad guy I would have met in the other novel. While it starts off like its own story-- about half-way through we meet the very clever bad guy and end up with a lot of cop procedure designed to stop the bad buy.

Fairly decent, better than average, but woul
Mar 06, 2010 Eric_W rated it really liked it
Carl Houseman, a deputy sheriff in Nation County, Iowa keeps watching the Weather Channel as the worm-like jet stream moves gradually north bringing the promise of a January thaw. In the meantime, he and his colleagues, not to mention the FBI and Iowa DCI, have their hands full trying to solve the murders of two burglars on a remote farm. There is the usual turf war between the various departments.

The FBI is reluctant to release information to their “hick” fellow officers (there is a very funny
Carla JFCL
Oct 10, 2013 Carla JFCL rated it liked it
I liked the overall plot of this book, found it to be a fast read, enjoyed the characters, and it held my interest. It is kind of a rough read in spots because the writing - especially dialogue - doesn't quite hang together all the time. I had to do a fair amount of rereading to figure out who was saying what at times. I was also quite surprised to find a lot of typos, as this is not a self-published book and is, in fact, put out by a major publisher (Bantam). Of course this can be easily overco ...more
Iowa City Public Library
Frigid days like today make me think of Donald Harstad’s mystery novels set in Northeast Iowa. If you haven’t read Harstad and enjoy mysteries, he’s worth a try. Harstad, from Elkader, was a deputy sheriff in Clayton County for 26 years before retiring to write full-time. Harstad didn’t plan to become a writer, but a bit of serendipity and excess vacation time changed his life. I’ve heard Harstad tell this story a number of times, and it’s one of my favorite author stories. One day Harstad was c ...more
Jul 10, 2009 Michael rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of police procedurals, readers, fans who enjoyed the movie "Fargo"
Recommended to Michael by: Enjoy the author
Dpty. Sheriff Carl Houseman is called out on a freezing night in Iowa. Two home burgulers are found dead in the home of Cletus Borglan.

Borglan is a wealthy farmer and believer that the govt. is interfering with the average man's rights.

The investigation slows down but one Housesman's fellow officers spots a snowmobile with sound suppressors and a driver with night goggles. When stopped the driver tries to fight with Houseman and the other officer but he's subdued. They find that he is a FBI agen
May 06, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
A very well written police procedural novel that features a main character that serves on a small town Sheriff's department. The set up here is when two burglars are found murdered and the investigation begins all will not be as it seems. And for those following the series a certain previous bad guy will crop up in this one. Harstad has served on a small town Sheriff's department and knows what he writes about, and that really does make a difference.
Mary Davidsaver
Jul 20, 2015 Mary Davidsaver rated it really liked it
A complex plot that has FBI resources plumping up the manpower of Nation county's sheriff's department. The FBI's help isn't always straightforward and honest, but the firepower is badly needed. In the end, the military mastermind behind the mayhem has his faithful reunion with Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman. Chilly chases, horrific shootouts, brazen bank robbers--we have it all here and more. A good read.
Jun 27, 2015 Evelyn rated it it was amazing
A small town deputy thinks that something big is going on when he learns that the two inept burglars he found frozen in the shed of a vacant farm were telling people they were undercover cops.

Author was deputy sheriff for 26 years. Captures authentic police style and atmosphere of an Iowa winter. Suspenseful; hard to put down once you start reading. Highly recommend.
Sep 09, 2008 Trilby rated it liked it
Don't believe the descriptive blurb on goodreads. If you liked "Fargo", you may not like, and may in fact hate this novel. Like "Fargo" it's about crime in upper Midwest, but it has none of the wit and satirical bite of the movie. The narrator, a small-town Iowa cop, is likable, but he ain't no Margie. The criminal he's chasing is a master, a would-be terrorist. (Ya sure, dat's real likely to happen in Hicksville, Iowa.) The other characters are pretty much flat, predictable types, the silliest ...more
Andy Plonka
Aug 18, 2015 Andy Plonka rated it really liked it
As well as delivering an excellent police procedural, I learned something about Iowa. It is not a completely flat state, they have hills and it can get very cold during the winter (-44 Fahrenheit is mentioned)
Dec 18, 2008 Kate rated it it was ok
It was fun to read a book by a local author, but this one wasn't exactly top notch. It was an interesting story to start, but the story became more and more unbelievable it progressed.

What I noticed most about this book was the strong masculine feel to it. THere was very little character development that had to do with emotions - lots of procedural stuff, as someone in my book club describe it. The big indicator to me on how masculine the book was... a two page spread on details of a 22 caliber
Jan 30, 2016 Diane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, fiction, hpl
Very enjoyable book. Fast paced easy read. Now I will get Code 61 as an ebook from my library.
Jan 29, 2016 Sharon rated it did not like it
Bored me to snores I'm afraid. Trudged through 80 pages and just couldn't put up with anymore "ten four good buddy's"
Amy (amyb2332)
I liked this book better than the first book but the disjointed writing still pulls me out of the story more often than I'd like. But this is a good enough series by an Iowan author so I will read the rest of the books.
The Big Thaw - G+
Harstaad, Donald - 3rd in series
Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman and his incisive partner, General Criminal Agent Hester Gorse, discovery two frozen burglars in a machine shed on a farm leads Houseman and Gorse to an elaborate plot against a Mississippi riverboat casino. Houseman deadpans his way through the vagaries of a case that depends upon his outfoxing a mix of forensics specialists, attorneys, politicians, and even the FBI Snowmobile Detail.

A solid, enjoyable police procedura
Jan 22, 2016 Jean rated it it was amazing
Great police read. So glad I discovered this author.
Jan 17, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it
super informative, easy to read, engaging account of 'the big thaw' that's happening in the Arctic. Draws from personal anecdotes and the actual research of scientists and the author. Catalyzed me into a feeling that i should do something (not sure what I can do to help the polar bears). I'd highly recommend it so someone hoping to learn more about the issue, but not wanting/able to read the actual scientific articles.
Apr 11, 2013 Bob rated it it was amazing
This was a very good crime/police novel and should have been since it was written by a former sheriff who truly knows his stuff... there's humor, there's suspense and danger... it started out slow but then again he's a new author to me and I find with new authors there's a honeymoon period with me where I have to get used to their style... but it was a good story, I enjoyed it.
Mar 14, 2012 Bobbi rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-read, mystery
I love police procedural set in areas beyond LA and NYC. This one, set in Iowa, is a strong book and series. Carl Houseman is a great character and you really get the sense of being there in Iowa with Carl chasing down clues, visiting with cops, and finally crawling into bed after seemingly endless days. Would recommend to anyone loving cop series.
John Onoda
Feb 02, 2010 John Onoda rated it it was amazing
Another top notch police procedural set in rural Iowa. This time there's a strong "heist caper" element to the strong, a bad guy who could give Bruce Willis a hard time, and lots of inter-agency conflict between the locals and the feds. Whoopee!!
Not quite as good as the previous two books in the series. While I did like the rural Iowa setting and very realistic police procedural aspects in this book the plot was just a bit too out there for me.
Nov 30, 2011 Lynda rated it really liked it
great small Iowa town crime story, read some of his other books a long time ago...all good!
Laurie Stoll
Feb 25, 2011 Laurie Stoll rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
A good suspense. A book that you want to keep turning the page to see what happens next.
Mary Sue
Jul 25, 2007 Mary Sue rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: mystery lovers
An Iowa author and setting. I recognize those cold winter settings and characters.
Aug 05, 2007 Tom rated it really liked it
a neat procedural thriller - ideal holiday reading.
Jul 19, 2012 Nancy added it
I think that I've found a new author!
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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. (From Random House website.)
More about Donald Harstad...

Other Books in the Series

Carl Houseman (5 books)
  • Eleven Days
  • Known Dead
  • Code 61
  • A Long December

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