Time was when series detectives just faded away, usually because their creators had died. Now that writers like Nicolas Freeling, Joseph Hansen, and Thomas Boyle round off their series by killing their heroes, Constantine's fans should be glad that he's merely sending Rocksburg, Pa., Police Chief Mario Balzic (Bottom Liner Blues, 1993, etc.) into retirement. But what a retirement! Pressed by the city's shrinking budget to lay off five of his long-suffering officers, Balzic discovers that at least one of his candidates for furlough has already been working under the table for SWERT, the Conemaugh County Special Weapons and Emergency Response Team financed by town grandfather Orville Householder and run by high-handed Fire Chief Ed Sitko. SWERT, it turns out, is a privatized police force whose charter is a recipe for grass-roots fascism in the Pennsylvania hills, and Balzic can't go up against it without bucking a tide of money, anti- government cynicism, and enough lovingly detailed public sentiment to sweep out Mayor Kenny Strohn, beleaguered councilwoman Julie Richards, and himself. The stage is set for a fight to the finish, but what Constantine provides instead--an impassioned jeremiad against Reaganomics, nativism, and the self- serving power of big money, dribbling off to a no-show showdown as Balzic goes rather gently into that good night--will surprise only readers who are new to his work (and who sure will wonder what to make of this envoi). No mystery, but a memorable curtain call for its lovable hero: Balzic's Last Bow, spun out of a seamless skein of irresistible conversations.