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by John Billheimer
St. Martin's, April 2003
320 pages
ISBN: 0312291213

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Transportation investigator Owen Allison is in West Virginia, his home state, caring for his mother as she receives and recovers from chemotherapy. Waiting for him back in California is his ex-wife, with whom he's rekindling a relationship, and his consulting practice. Understandably, he's eager to get home. With his mother doing well, that day should soon arrive, he thinks.

But then a dam breaks and coal sludge covers the region, leaving homes destroyed and people dead. Anson Stokes, the owner of the mine that overflowed, knows Owen from their high school days and hires him to investigate, because if the mining company is found to be responsible, the lawsuits could wipe out all that Anson has accumulated. The last thing Anson wants is for any lawsuit against him to succeed, even though one of the dead is his nephew.

Owen never cared for Anson and he has no real desire to linger in West Virginia, but he could use the money (caring for his mother hasn't helped his income) and the case intrigues him. He accepts Anson's offer, little suspecting just how complicated this case will be. Nor could Owen have known that this case would have him working with mine engineer Emily Kruk, whose youth and attractiveness make a prolonged stay in West Virginia a little more appealing.

Owen isn't surprised, since he knows his home state all too well, when things get political, but he doesn't expect that there will be any deaths beyond those caused by the dam burst. He certainly doesn't expect that his own life could be at risk, but Owen should know by now to always expect the unexpected in West Virginia.

DRYBONE HOLLOW is the fourth book this delightful series. Once again, Billheimer captures perfectly the ambiance of rural West Virginia. (Not surprising, since he's a native himself.) Owen Allison is an appealing protagonist, an Everyman, not a Superman, and all the more believable for it. The secondary characters are as believable as Owen; even the bad guys are fun in their own way. The plot is clever and only the most attentive readers will anticipate the twists. DRYBONE HOLLOW should win Billheimer new fans while keeping his current ones addicted.

Reviewed by Susan Anderson, June 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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