Friday, July 27, 2012
Review of The Rocksburg Railroad Murders by K. C. Constantine (Coronet Crime, 1972)
The Rocksburg Railroad Murders is the first of fifteen books in the Mario Balzic series. The strengths of the book are the characterisation, dialogue and social scenes, the sense of place, and the all show and no tell style. Constantine very good at creating clearly defined characters who are alive on the page and the social interactions between them are first rate, the dialogue spot on. Indeed, the dialogue is what makes the book sparkle, with lively exchanges through authentic voices. Constantine makes sure to thoroughly intertwine the social and work, providing a rounded view of Balzic’s world as a family man and local cop in a small community where he knows just about everyone. And the story is full of insight into local law and order politics, the intricacies of the relationships between local, state and federal cops and the legal system, and has some interesting political swipes at U.S. law enforcement (at one point Balzic makes a well argued case against police officers being armed, for example). Sometimes the plot perhaps focuses a little too much on Balzic and not on the mystery. In fact, there’s not much mystery to the story and the plot relies on a couple of awkward plot devices, especially toward the end in order to create a dramatic conclusion. But somehow that doesn’t really matter. The star of the show is Balzic and it was a pleasure to spend time in his company.