THE WHO LIKED SLOW TOMATOES by K. C. Constantine

THE WHO LIKED SLOW TOMATOES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Less plotted and more purely atmospheric than previous cases for Police Chief Mario Balzic of Rocksburg, Pa. (A Fix Like This, etc.), this case begins with Balzic in Muscotti's Bar. He's drinking red wine to forget the union-contract squabbles over in City Hall--but, since bartender Vinnie happens to be on the phone with hysterical Mrs. Franny Romanelli, Balzic reluctantly winds up in the thick of the Romanellis' domestic squabbles. Franny's husband Jimmy, you see, has been acting strangely ever since losing his coal-mining job--with mood-shifts, wife-beating, and, now, a 24-hour disappearance. Is he into a drug-dealing racket? And why has he lately become obsessed with growing tomatoes, in a plot next to that of his old father-in-law, a retired union organizer? Balzic makes some inquiries, annoys the Drug Enforcement guys, and--when Jimmy disappears again, this time permanently--the Chief fingers the obvious killer and ends up with two more bodies (sad suicides). Constantine offers little in the way of suspense or mystery here, with leisurely digressions into those City Hall wrangles. But the western-Pennsylvania milieu is scruffily convincing; the ethnic voicings are richly evocative; and the dialogue (especially Balzic's marital repartee and his earthy words of wisdom to a rookie) is vivid, raw, and comical. So those who value gritty local color over taut deduction will find this an agreeably downbeat departure from the police-procedural routine.

Pub Date: Dec. 9th, 1981
Publisher: Godine