Like many this past month, I watched and enjoyed HBO’s Mare of Easttown. I especially liked the first tier suburban Philly setting, the commitment to local culture, and the character-focused thrust of storytelling, even as there was a murder mystery to be solved. There was empathy for people and their situations in life, all of it centered around the titular Mare, the town detective.
I wanted to read a book with similar traits. Long Bright River is the easiest and obvious answer but I read (and enjoyed) that one last year. Some of the other recs were either too familiar or too far afield from what Mare was about.
And then, I listened to The Watch podcast as the guys talked about KC Constantine.
Constantine is a writer I’ve been meaning to try for a while, though I’d be lying if I said he was high on my list. Stephen King likes him but his books are hard to find. He pens a long running series about a police chief solving crimes in an exurban Pittsburgh outpost where the coal industry is dying. It’s the other side of Pennsylvania but stylistically, that’s close enough.
And yeah, I don’t know if the writers of Mare read these but the spirit of those books is definitely in the show.
Mario Balzic is your typical crusty cop, except that he knows and does care about his neighborhood’s residents. He tries to do right by them more often than not, almost to a fault. I picked up this one, the middle one in the series, because it’s what was available. I loved it. Again, like Mare, don’t read this for the whodunnit. Read it for the protagonist, the atmosphere, the supporting characters. Read it for the deep empathy. Read it for the tragedy.
Or just read it because it’s a really good book.