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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Joey’s Case by KC Constantine

Crime fiction. But if you’re looking for neat plotting or some nicely paced violence this book is not for you. In fact none of Constantine’s novels will provide what you are looking for.

What this writer has done over a series of novels is build a fictional world, Rocksburg, in western Pennsylvania’s coal mining district. Police Chief Mario Balzic, his wife Ruth, his mother who lives with them, Blazic’s colleagues and the people who work at City Hall, and the various criminals and witnesses to their crimes, the waitresses in the restaurants and the guys who serve behind the bars are the characters who inhabit the neighbourhood and the novels.

Constantine has an ear for dialogue that is as good as George V Higgins or Elmore Leonard, and he has the capacity to breathe life into his characters that is more convincing than either. Balzic, himself often the main protagonist in the early novels, is satisfyingly conflicted and convincing and must be one of the most engaging characters in today’s crime fiction scene in Europe or America.

In Joey’s Case:

Balzic had been trying to dodge Albert Castelucci for five months. There were only so many things he could say to a man whose only son had been shot to death, and he had long since said them all. He had apologized, sympathized, commiserated; he had explained again and again that it had not happened in his jurisdiction. It had happened in Westfield Township, only a matter of yards away from the Rocksburg border, it was true, but yards were yards and borders were borders. Balzic knew he was in trouble when he began protesting that he had been in Pittsburg when it happened, as if that mattered. The more he ducked the old man, the more the old man hounded him; the more he explained, the less the old man heard, or even pretended to hear. In no time, Balzic’s sympathy and commiseration had turned to irritation and then to frustration and then to anger; and then, one Sunday after Castelucci had confronted him after Mass in front of St. Malachy’s, Balzic heard himself saying, “Mr Castelucci, as far as your son was concerned, it was only a matter of time.”

Needless to say, Balzic eventually agrees to dabble around in someone else’s jurisdiction, gets himself sucked into something that almost amounts to a full-time job while he’s also administering his Rocksburg responsibilities, coping with absentee officers in his own force, and battling a severe case of sexual dysfunction.

But it’s not the first time Mario has been threatened by an overwhelming and hostile environment, and in this 1988 novel, he’s dealing every card in the pack to get Rocksburg back into some kind of order.

If you don’t know Constantine’s work, it’s worth trying to track one of these novels down. It could be exactly what you need to slip seamlessly into 2008.

One Response to “Joey’s Case by KC Constantine”

  1. Norma Gavin says:

    How many hundreds of people have told you it is “Pittsburgh”?

    jb says: Only you, Norma. But thanks all the same.