It's Sgt. Ruggiero Carlucci's turn to hold the center in the 15th installment of Rocksburg (Pa.) police drama. Police Chief Emeritus Mario Balzic, the mainstay for most of this matchless series (Blood Mud, 1999, etc.), is confined here to a walk-on, but Rocksburg devotees won't miss him—Rugs is just that terrific. No question, though: it's a time of trial for the modest, angst-ridden little detective. To begin with, James Deford Lyon, CEO of multinational Conemaugh Steel, once Rocksburg's reason for being, has been shot to death. The media spotlight, already hot, intensifies when an ex-big-time labor leader is killed within days. Both men had their share of enemies, and Lyon, whose commitment to downsizing has brought the town to its knees, was probably the most hated man in Rocksburg. But the problem even higher on Rugs's priority list is what to do about his mother, in whose house the 46-year-old bachelor still lives. Long a termagant, she has now stepped up to the ogress class, a transition she confirms by sucker-punching poor Rugs in the chops, sending him, blood gushing, to Conemaugh County General for seven stitches. Rugs, however, is the stuff of survivors, and also pretty smart, as he proves when he cracks his murder case. The case of Mama Carlucci . . . well, that's something else again.
A remarkably rich and layered novel—funny, poignant, and wise—about crime and punishment, about politics, about how a shy man falls in love, about honor. Fans will take it to their hearts, and newcomers to the series will end as fans.