Carl Houseman is a deputy sheriff of a small county in Iowa find out who murdered a Division of Narcotics agent and then one of his own officers in a stand off with a resident anti-government farmer. Carl Houseman is a deputy sheriff in Nation County, Iowa who must find out who killed an Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement agent while he was doing surveillance on a marijuana patch in the county. When Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman assigned himself as the backup for both an Iowa DNE agent and his own deputy, he had no idea that one would get killed and the investigation into his death would lead to a right wing anti-government group and not to the drug dealers in his fair county.
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In addition to the deputy getting killed, a small time drug dealer was also killed and it being a small town, Carl knew the man, knew his girlfriend, and knew his criminal history right off the top of his head. His first stop in the investigation was the dead man's girlfriend who was more than happy to share part of what she knew. The mystery widened when the forensics, run by the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations, came back with an odd caliber that would have been fired from a gun no one in his county, or in the country, would have. The small time drug dealer had a shotgun that was likely fired as he was killed and it hit nothing, but it wasn't the weapon that shot the DNE man.
From the girlfriend Carl and the DCI team began investigating each lead where the small drug dealer's girl took them. Each time a new name was added and sometimes a new gun, but never the one they were looking for. Then by chance, some deputies went out to a farm to serve papers on the Spencers for not paying their taxes, and old man Spencer, who everyone knew, shot one of them dead. Carl had to call in reinforcements from the state because he didn't have the manpower to deal with the murder investigation and now this, which was looking to be a standoff. They thought Spencer would give up quickly, but then his son walked by and told them he wasn't giving up, that they were trespassing and they would see them in the People's Court.
Spencer allows them to take the dead officer and the wounded officer, and once the autopsy is done, they discover the bullets are the same as the ones that killed the DCE officer. They also find that there are more people on the farm than just Spencer's family. By this time the DEA is involved, because of the federal agent being involved and the marijuana patch he was killed over. As more federal agencies get involved, Carl begins to get the runaround; the we can't tell you this and we can't tell you that. But on his own, Carl is finding out what he needs to know, though he is always grateful for the help.
Spencer asks to talk to the press and when they send one press person in, he gets killed, and people run out the back of the farm and into the corn fields where they get lost in the corn and escape. After they finally get Spencer and his family to surrender, and they take them to jail, a picture begins to emerge of what exactly was going on and who is involved.
They enlist the aid of the reporter who was partners with the one who was shot, because they think a reporter for a socialist newspaper may be involved and she may be able to get information from him. While she pumps him for information Carl gets little hints from the feds that the man they think is behind it all is someone they have been looking for for a long time, and it isn't about drugs, and the gun may be part of a weapons cache that was stolen, but they won't say from whom or when.
Then the man starts to call Carl and taunt him and the feds admit to Carl that the man is a well known right wing extremist who has been involved in other right wing anti-government standoffs. Carl then realizes that the man is in love with Spencer's wife, who still isn't talking. Using this idea, Carl comes up with a plan to draw the man to the town so they can capture him, and the day they have to take her to court, facilities in his town start blowing up and their reinforcements for the jail and the courtroom get diverted, exactly as the perpetrator knew they would.
The story culminates in the courtroom, when they try to rescue Spencer's wife and fail. Though Carl is certain that the man himself was there and was killed, he is later taken into confidence and is told the weapons that were used were stolen were part of a shipment of European law enforcement weapons and were stolen from an airport. Many of them were not recovered and the feds search is still on, for the weapons and the man who stole them.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the way it was told, as a story that the small town sheriff was relating about the weirdest case his town has ever seen. You can almost hear him speaking. The dialogue, and his thoughts, are perfect.
Best scene in story:
I liked when the feds decide how they think the set up for the perpetrator is going to go down, and Carl, in his head, is thinking it won't work that way, that if he was the guy he would do something entirely differently, and Carl is right.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that no matter how much the feds hold back on him. he just takes it as it comes, and by the time the book is near the end, when he asks a question, he answers it out loud as the feds would - I'd love to tell you but I can't.