Joey Case was a loser. Ever since anyone could remember, he had been getting beaten up, either by his wife or by the numerous men he regularly crossed during his hapless life. When he was finally killed--and everyone agreed it was only a matter of time with Joey--it was fortunately outside the jurisdiction of Rocksburg’s chief of police, Mario Balzic. Unfortunately, however, Joey’s father, an old miner dying of lung disease, will not let go of the death of his son. The elder Case pesters Balzic until Balzic agrees to look into the killing himself. Balzic finds a botched investigation by the state police which has left the killer free--the case was thrown out of court because there was so little usable evidence--and a cast of witnesses of varying degrees of lunacy.
Much of the pleasure of K.C. Constantine’s Mario Balzic novels arises from the interplay between Balzic and his constituency and not from the whodunit aspects of the plot. This novel follows Balzic around Rocksburg, especially the Italian neighborhoods, as he traces the pieces of Joey’s life and tries to discover exactly what happened on the night of his death. The novel also presents Balzic’s ruminations on aging and on his changing relationship with his wife Ruth. Balzic’s character has evolved through the series of Rocksburg novels, and he appears in this latest one as a more mature and understanding man. If the reader has not yet discovered the Mario Balzic mysteries, JOEY’S CASE is a good place to begin: It is vintage Constantine.