Debut police shocker, inspired by a real event and written by a 26-year veteran of the Clayton County Sheriff’s Department in northeastern Iowa. Now retired, Harstad has already written a sequel about highway patrolman and Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman of Nation County PD in Iowa. Houseman, who’s been a cop for over 20 years, is on night patrol when a call from a woman comes in about a murder in progress on a farm. When Carl arrives at the Francis Maguire place, he finds that he has to shoot a wounded dog and that the brutally slain Maguire has one hand missing. That same night, more murders occur at a farm eight miles away; they appear tied to the first by Satanic cult mutilations on the bodies of two dead women and a castrated male. One woman has had a breast removed and apparently mixed with the man’s gonads in a blender—among even more demonic atrocities. Called to assist the eight-man police department is Special Agent Hester Gorse, who takes charge and, having already worked over a hundred homicides, displays great smarts. Among the mysterious pieces of evidence: The woman who made the initial call to the dispatcher is not among the dead, and the slain Maguire seems to have been killed elsewhere, then dumped back in his own house. And a baby is missing—for sacrifice? Who is the cult leader really attorney Oswald Traer? Carl’s nighttime investigation of the second murder site ends up getting him clubbed in the dark--in fact he gets pretty thoroughly worked over before story’s end, while also canvassing the town for background on the cult. Eventually, the vengeful paranoid murderer attacks the police station itself. Often deadpan-funny on the incompetence of various officers. Harstad may have a hard time later equaling this wild and woolly weirdness.