"...a puzzle so ingenious that...readers shoulda seen it coming--but they won't"
This story is full of quirky, well-drawn characters. If you enjoy "humor and homicide," and a very satisfying plot, this mystery novel is for you!
Scamps and scalawags abound in Billheimer's fourth Owen Allison mystery (after 2001's Dismal Mountain), in which the transportation inspector returns to his native Barkley, W.Va., to help his ailing mother. When an impoundment dam atop the Canaan II coal mine bursts and sends a flood of coal slurry washing through nearby Drybone Hollow, wiping out a bridge, two trailers and a few unfortunate people, Owen finds his expertise as a "failure analyst" in great demand. The dam's collapse loosed not only the coal slurry but a horde of scam artists. While some of the scams are of the almost blameless sort, such as government fraud, others are more serious, such as defrauding the government. The author adroitly catches the phrases and speech patterns of oddball characters like the Reverend Moral Brody, who rides a Harley and wears a black leather jacket emblazoned with "HEAVEN'S ANGELS." A peaceable and decent sort, Owen is fond of the locals, but has a healthy appreciation of their deceitful ways. He needs all his patience and skill to untangle the deadly threats from the merely mendacious as kidnapping, kickbacks, blackmail, fraud and murder once again flow through coal country. Billheimer's West Virginia is unlikely to please the state's tourism bureau, but it's a fine place for readers to visit for humor and homicide.