Good fictional cops don't fade away--they get another sequel. In K.C. Constantine's novel, Cranks and Shadows, Rocksburg P.A.'s police chief, Mario Balzic, retired. Now, in Family Values, he's bored out of his mind and itching for something to do. Before he can drive himself, his wife, his bartender and his friends completely nuts, Deputy Attorney General Warren Livingood arrives to make Balzic an offer: investigate a 17-year-old murder that just gets messier with every passing year in exchange for the title of Special Investigator, state credentials and thirty-five dollars an hour.
Soon Mario is conducting jailhouse interviews with a crew of unsavory folks, all offering up differing stories of the sordid crime at the heart of this tangle: a double homicide resulting from a drug deal gone bad. Eventually, however, the trail leads to Balzic's dopplegänger of sorts: another small-town police chief who, in his prime, was the devil's own. In Family Values the mystery is almost secondary to the fascinating array of complex characters Mr. Constantine creates--characters that will remain in the reader's mind long after the murder has been resolved.