- Series: Owen Allison Mysteries (Book 500)
- Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Worldwide Library (August 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 037326500X
- ISBN-13: 978-0373265008
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,600,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Drybone Hollow Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The fourth Owen Allison novel is, like its predecessors, a gripping mystery. Allison, a transportation inspector and an expert in why things fail (his company is called Failure Analysis), is visiting his mother in Barkley, West Virginia, where he grew up. Before he can get back to his home in California, he's waylaid by a local mystery: a mine's containment dam has apparently failed, and 300 million tons of coal sludge have poured into nearby Drybone Hollow, washing away homes and lives. When the mine owner, a man Owen has known (but not especially liked) since childhood, asks him to look into the disaster, he reluctantly agrees--and soon uncovers several suspicious things, including a missing-persons case that may not be what it seems. In genre laden with too many amateur sleuths, Allison is a fresh protagonist with an unusual pedigree--he is not a writer, a lawyer, or a pathologist--and in describing his adventures, Billheimer manages (thankfully) to avoid most of the amateur-sleuth cliches. Keep 'em coming. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The dam by the Canaan II mine erupts, killing four and filling DRYBONE HOLLOW with coal sludge. Owner Anson Stoke hires Owen to persuade environmentalist Judge Carter Vereen that despite the toll, his operations remain safe and should stay open. Judge Vereen orders an investigation of all impoundment dams sitting on mines, which leads to state attorney general Hayes Boyer asking Owen to head the inquiry, but demanding a kickback of 15% of Owen's fee. Owen rejects the offer, but turns to his friend Sheriff Thad Reader to set a trap to expose those using fixed contracts, but the law enforcement official deals with a full plate already as a local has probably been abducted. So Owen plunges ahead knowing he will receive limited support from his buddy, but mine engineer Emily Kruk makes it worth while to stay in West Virginia a bit longer.
Though the "will he reconcile or not" becomes a bit annoying, readers will appreciate the latest Owen Allison investigative tale. Most of the audience will kick themselves when they see how obvious John Billheimer's plot solves the mystery as the clues are all provided, but so devilishly done that most fans (including this sore reviewer) will fail to see it. The cast is a delight with the hero at his best when he investigates.
Plot overview: Transportation investigator Owen Allison recently left his lucrative consulting practice in California to help his mother back home in West Virginia in her fight against cancer. His ex-wife and current lover, Judith, is also back on the West Coast, and now that his mother has mostly recovered, he's itching to get back to his life, to stimulate both his portfolio and his love life.
But before he has a chance to leave his small hometown of Barkley, West Virginia, a local dam breaks, sending a black ribbon of coal sludge cascading miles and miles through the hollows across the region. Four people lose their lives in the accident, and the ambulance chasers gnash their teeth and formulate strategies for the inevitable lawsuits against big coal.
It turns out that Owen knows the owner of the coal mine, a good ol' boy from his high school class whose success has surprised everyone, even himself. What's more, the classmate knows that finding out why things fail is Owen's specialty, and he hires him on the spot to figure out just what went wrong. Judith and his California practice will have to wait, but Owen is only half-worried about letting those things slide. He's thrilled to be back in the thick of things, and readers will be, too, in another quirky, engaging installment in John Billheimer's unusual and winning series.
One of the pleasures of this series is watching Owen's relationships with other characters deepen an grow as the books progress. Though you don't need to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one, if this is your first Owen Alison book you'll want to go back and read the others just to find out what's happened in the past. These books are one of my favorite mystery series.