This is a 'first book', published in 1998. Harstad is a former deputy sheriff in northeastern Iowa, he sets his story there and his narrator is, surprise, a deputy sheriff. This is both a police procedural and a thriller, with a high body count, ritualistic murders, a Satanic cult, intrusive newspaper reporters, and much more. Our hero, Carl Houseman, is 40-something and likes his job. He is well known and well liked in the community and he is no hick cop.
I liked the way the story moved. Murder started the story, and the police took over. Slowly they gathered evidence and made conclusions. Usually the conclusions were correct, this was not one of those books were the 'cops' make lots of bad decisions which cause more people to die. The climax is as explosive as you would want it and things are neatly wrapped up. I had some questions remaining, but for the most part, I was satisfied. I liked the characters, I liked the writing, I liked the book. Harstad has written 4 more books in the series and I intend to find them.