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Out of Season: An Undersheriff Bill Gastner Mystery Hardcover – October 13, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The seventh southwestern mystery featuring undersheriff Bill Gastner (after Prolonged Exposure) again demonstrates Havill's talent for combining amiable characters with believable suspense. The author's realistic ranchers, loners and small-town politicians inhabit a desolate region of New Mexico that lends itself well to the drama of farmers trying to survive a downturn in profits. The large, sparsely populated county of Posadas has a small police force headed by a political administrator, Sheriff Martin Holman. Gastner, the aging undersheriff, oversees the real police work done by chief of detectives Estelle Reyes-Guzman and a cadre of young officers. At the novel's start, the police department is facing a major shakeup: Estelle will soon move to Minnesota with her husband; the sergeant is about to marry the chief dispatcher; Gastner himself will retire in a few months. When a small plane crashes with Sheriff Holman and his brother-in-law aboard, and an autopsy reveals that a bullet struck the pilot, the whole department pulls together to find out what happened. Though the shot may have been an accident, Holman was pursuing an investigation on his own when he died, so more sinister possibilities must be explored. Gastner's calm, experienced leadership guides his staff, as well as FAA officials, through several prickly conflicts with a couple of fiercely independent ranchers. For readers, his considerate, methodical approach will prove a welcome change from the angry, violent paths trod by so many cops in other novels. Full of bright local color and suffused with a compassionate understanding of human motivation, this intelligent, understated mystery deserves a wide and appreciative readership. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Overweight sixtysomething Bill Gastner, undersheriff of Posadas County, New Mexico, is part Marshall Dillon, part curmudgeonly western grandpap, but as much as he tries to hold back the long, slow slide that threatens to turn an old-fashioned small town in rural New Mexico into a mini-Albuquerque, he knows he's losing the West, not winning it. And now he's losing his troops: his superb detective, Estelle Reyes-Guzman, is leaving Posadas for Minnesota, and now, as this seventh Gastner novel opens, his boss, Sheriff Martin Holman, the good-hearted bureaucrat, is killed in a plane crash, caused by rifle fire from the ground. As a last hurrah before his own retirement and Reyes-Guzman's departure, Gastner sets out to determine what happened. Not only does Havill offer a melancholy reinterpretation of that grand western myth of the slow-talking, fast-thinking lawman, he also writes crisp, marvelously detailed police procedurals in which a mix of technical know-how and informed common sense gets things done. A consistently strong, underappreciated series. Bill Ott

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (October 13, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312244142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312244149
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,551,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 39 customer reviews
The characters seem very real and believable.
I love this whole series and I just finished #14 so I can't remember details of #7.
The are all well written mysteries that were very hard to put down.
Brockmann fan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
For the past two decades, sexagenarian Bill Gastner has worked as an under-sheriff in Posados County, New Mexico. With only a few months to go, he eagerly awaits his upcoming retirement. Things are coming to the sheriff's department that forebode major change. His chief Estelle Rogers-Guzman is leaving office to move to another state. His best deputy plans to transfer to another office. Now his boss Sheriff Holman dies in an airplane crash.

The county supervisors insist Bill postpone his retirement and serve as the interim sheriff until the election occurs. Reluctantly, Bill acquiesces in their request. Bill begins inquiries into Holman's death. Pieces of a bullet are found in the body of the pilot. The National Transportation and Safety Board find evidence that a bullet hit the fuselage before splintering into the pilot. Pictures that the deceased sheriff shot show pastoral scenery. With the aid of the FBI, Bill plans to learn what was so important that two individuals were murdered to protect its secret.

Bill is a wonderful character, who, though weary, can physically and mentally keep astride with his much younger subordinates and peers. The linear story line cleverly hides the answer to the mystery until the end, but trying to guess why and what adds to the pleasure of reading OUT OF SEASON. Steven F. Havill keeps his tale simple yet difficult to figure out and that is the charm of the novel and the talent of the author.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By PJ Coldren VINE VOICE on October 22, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Undersheriff Bill Gastner is looking forward to an uncomplicated few months before his retirement. The biggest thing on his plate is dealing with an employment application from Linda Real, a woman with some physical limitations, limitations which should not affect her ability to perform the job of dispatcher but may well be a problem on those occasions when the job duties extend beyond the norm, which wouldn't be abnormal in Posadas County, considering the personnel available at any given time. Nothing Bill can't handle. Even if his lone detective, Estelle Reyes-Guzman, is moving to Minneapolis with her husband, the medical examiner. His current dispatcher, Gayle Sedillos, is getting married and may or may not be sticking around. Plus one of his good workers has applied elsewhere, for a job which has some chances for advancement. But Bill has retirement staring him in the face, and he's coping just fine.

There is a plane crash. On board the plane is Sheriff Martin Holman. The pilot is his brother-in-law, Phil Camp. It is very unlike the Sheriff to want to fly at all, much less at night or in bad weather. The plot thickens even more when it is discovered that Phil Camp was killed by a bullet fired from the ground. The plane went down on the Boyd ranch, the shots seem to have been fired from the Finnegan ranch. Finnegan and Boyd have been disagreeing about some water issues. How much, if any, of this is connected to Holman's death?

In all the hullaballoo, involving all kinds of federal agencies being in on the investigation, Linda Real winds up working with Gayle Sedillos as a dispatcher. This settles one of his problems, but there are plenty of others.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Bill Gastner fans can worry through yet another skillfully woven tale by Steven Havill. Havill's easy style guides fans through transitions of some of our friends from past stories, but just how many are there going to be? As life and location scatters colleagues, we wonder who will be next.
Havill's books are always a risk to my rest: as tired as I might be the pages insist on being turned until the wee hours come and the resolution allows the light to be turned off.
Keep writing!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DWD's Reviews VINE VOICE on May 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The mystery is not all that mysterious. No international criminal ring threatens. National Secutiry and the fate of the free world do not depend on what happens in Posadas County, New Mexico and its tired and ready to retire Undersheriff Bill Gastner. That, of course, is the charm and strength of the book.

Plot details are easily found on other reviews on this page so let me praise what Havill does best in this book - character development. Gastner is a tired old horse who is ready to go out to pasture but when duty calls the value of his years of experience (more than anything else) move Federal, state and local authorities towards finding out who has killed Sheriff Martin Holmann. He is a restraining hand on the young pups, a prod to the confused and a sounding board to the others.

This is my first Havill book. You do not have to start the series at the beginning and I give this one an A-.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By oldusedcop on September 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Out of Season is a good, solid mystery in the usual self-deprecating Gastner style. The plot starts immediately with the death of the sheriff, and Gastner's appointment to fill the top spot while investigating what quickly turns out to be a murder instead of an accidental death. As with the other Posadas County stories, Havill portrays his character in a way that allows us to see and know Gastner personally. He maintains the mystery to the very end.
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