Constantine, whose gritty, moody novels often drag in crimes as afterthoughts (Upon Some Midnights Clear; Always a Body to Trade; The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes), here presents a candidate for best crime novel of the year--a mean, little, angst, riddled story punched up with gallows humor. Albert Castelucci hounds Rocksburg, Pa., police chief Mario Balzic to reopen the investigation into the death of his son Joey. Seems that Trooper Helfrick, from the next county over, mangled everything--from losing evidence (bullet shell casings) to not interviewing witnesses (he drove one off to the hospital instead). All too tree, but as assistant D.A. Horace Machlin says, ""The victim is an all-pro asshole and got exactly what he deserved."" Balzic agrees; however, he keeps digging: who saw what, heard what, how many shots were there anyway, and how many guns were in whose hands? Almost none of what he finds out is admissible in court because of Helfrick's original incompetency, but witness testimony would be--only Joellen Cooper and her married chum John Paul ltri won't even consider it, and Joey's wife and her boyfriend Franny are lying. (The byplay between Balzic and the courtroom spectator regulars, by the way is wonderful.) The shooting's resolution, typical of Constantine, is downbeat but real. And there are two interesting subplots: Balzic's on-going battle with impotency (perhaps alcohol-induced) and rage; Itri's battle with guilt (which, to his horror, does not further justice). A fine story. If you've never visited Rocksburg, this is a good time to go.