K.C. Constantine’s Mario Balzic is one of those police chiefs so close to his people that nothing moves or even sits still in his town without his knowing how and why. His town is Rocksburg, a small coal mining town in western Pennsylvania where most of the coal has run out. In this, his fifth case, tomatoes curiously ripening out of season are the key. It begins at Muscotti’s Bar, Balzic’s refuge, when Jimmy Romanelli sells several baskets of tomatoes to Vinnie, Muscotti’s barkeep. It ends some weeks later after three deaths and a drained, disgusted Balzic, unable to take any satisfaction in his solution of Romanelli’s murder, the proximate cause for Jimmy’s twisted passion for growing tomatoes.
As in all Balzic novels, the Chief is the center of consciousness. He’s fiercely unpretentious, in absolute command, without an officious bone in his head or phrase in his mouth. And so fundamentally gentle and good at what he does that not even his Mozartian profanity succeeds in hiding his detective genius. If you’ve not met this Serbo-Italian, profoundly American cop, it’s time you did.
K.C. Constantine is a marvelous writer. May Mario Balzic thrive. . . The most poignant studies of post-Industrial Age depression in modern crime literature. His fictional setting has the idiosyncratic distinctiveness of your own thumb.–The New York Times
For a quarter century in fifteen mostly brilliant novels, Constantine has been illuminating a Rust Belt city’s economic collapse and the parabolic curve of the career and life of its chief of police, Mario Balzic. . . One of the best mystery series ever published.–Booklist
A superb writer and social chronicler. . . No one since John O’Hara has dissected class distinctions with such sensitivity and pinpoint accuracy.–LA Times
K.C. Constantine writes like an angel: sharply and funnily, with an ear for dialogue that matches George V. Higgins.–TLS
Balzic is one of the great characters in contemporary fiction. . . We read the Balzic novels for K.C. Constantine’s ear, for the way people give themselves away when they talk, for his insider’s knowledge of the way small towns work, for his understanding of people, his joy in the human comedy, and his compassion.–The Boston Globe
Under the guise of mysteries, Constantine writes some of the best American regional fiction appearing today.–The Washington Post