The last book by one of the greats

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

Bob Moyer reviews the final book by one of the best mystery novelists of the late 20th century.

ANOTHER DAY’S PAIN. By K.C. Constantine. Mysterious Press. 232 pages. $26.95

With the posthumous publication of his 18th Rocksburg novel, K.C. Constantine deserves more than a review, he deserves an homage.

He was one of the best mystery novelists in the last quarter of the twentieth century. From 1972 to 2002, he wrote 17 novels about the fictional town of Rocksburg, PA. Humble police procedurals, they rarely had a murder, often not even a major crime. Chief Mario Balzic, one of the remarkable protagonists to come out of this period, investigated domestic disturbances, drunken rants, and neighborhood squabbles resulting from corporate greed and government policy. Constantine was frequently nominated for awards, and his books included on many “best of” lists. His early A Fix Like This still holds up, and Always a Body to Trade was included in a number of “best mysteries of the century.” Constantine also wrote differently than any other in his trade. His books bristled with dialogue. Not witty banter—dialogue, like people talk. Page after page contained uninterrupted dialogue that furthered the action, whatever little of it there was. Even the books that weren’t as good as the others still had good parts.

Another Day’s Pain is one of those books. It ranks somewhere in the middle of the series, but it has two tremendous sections. Ruggio “Rugs” Carlucci, who replaced Balzic as police chief and was then demoted to detective, is still on the job in 2012. He is still dealing with his violent mother, committed to the mental hospital up the road for attacking a cop that Rugs called on her. He also has to deal with repeat offenders, like the woman who periodically stops taking her meds and has to be committed. This time, Rugs calls for help, then fires his gun into the ground three times to stop the fire chief who answers the call and the naked woman from fighting. The other section of note is one of the best-written fight scenes to see print, when Rugs subdues a much larger gunman terrorizing the town. It’s Constantine at his best.

The fight makes Rugs a hero, but it also signals the start of his decline into retirement. His injuries are more than physical. The psychological trauma triggers memories of abuse he suffered not only at the hands of his mother, but also meted out by a priest in his youth. As he did consistently in his previous books, Constantine manages to take on large issues with small-town events. In a dying town like Rocksburg, it’s just Another Day’s Pain.

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