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.