|Donald Harstad: Code 61|
Bantam (Paperback), ISBN 0-553-58098-1
Iowa Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman's latest case begins to strain his skepticism. Or at least his patience. Edie Younger, the niece of the sheriff, apparently committed suicide in a rather gruesome manner -- a deep stab wound to the neck. But the trace evidence around her doesn't support a suicide scenario. Despite the location of the wound, little blood surrounds her in the tub where she allegedly died. When Toby, one of Edie's housemates, bolts in a panic, the case gets more muddled.
Toby believes a vampire killed Edie, which Houseman flat out refuses to accept. However, his investigation takes him into a lurid world of kinky sex and ritual blood drinking. The biggest obstacle facing Houseman seems to be his suspect and his difficulty in finding him. Dan Peale claims to be a vampire from England, but background checks discover his Iowa roots. Peale's lover, Jessica Hunley, owns the house where Edie and her five other housemates live. Hunley introduced the six young adults to Peale and to Peale's particular kinks.
Slowly, the evidence comes together and begins to paint a less supernatural picture, despite the wrinkle of a vampire hunter apparently on Peale's trail as well. But dealing with a delusional killer never comes easy, especially when he holds his small flock in rapt attention -- and utter fear.
A mediocre read, Donald Harstad's background in law enforcement shines through strongly. Much of the dialogue reads as cumbersome law enforcement shorthand, though Harstad provides a quick glossary of the 10-codes and their meanings at the back of the book. Houseman comes across as a good ol' boy, staunch in his belief that vampires do not exist; therefore Peale must exist as a mere mortal.
The rest of the characters come across as fairly one-dimensional. There's the gullible wanna-be vampire, the gal with a rough past who finally spills the beans on Peale and his secrets, the tough but nice female law enforcement agent, the whiney rookie cop who makes a big mistake, etc. etc. Code 61 reads like a formulaic and not terribly gripping mystery that ends on a whimper.
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