Books by John Billheimer

John Billheimer, a native West Virginian, lives in Portola Valley, California. He holds an engineering Ph. D. from Stanford University and for the past thirty years has been Vice President of SYSTAN, Inc., a small consulting firm that specializes in trans

PRIMARY TARGET by John Billheimer
Released: Sept. 2, 2019

"Payback's a bitch. Billheimer makes sure it's entertaining, too."
Accident analyst Owen Allison (Stonewall Jackson's Elbow, 2006, etc.) tangles with an old foe while trying to ensure election integrity. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 21, 2013

"Baseball fans and mystery fans alike will cheer as Billheimer goes into extra innings with a puzzle as ingenious as he offered in Keaton's debut."
Sportswriter Lloyd Keaton (Field of Schemes, 2012) gets more than he bargained for when he agrees to pen the biography of a famous pitcher. Read full book review >
FIELD OF SCHEMES by John Billheimer
Released: Sept. 19, 2012

"Like his Owen Allison series (Stonewall Jackson's Elbow, 2006, etc.), Billheimer's new franchise emphasizes local color in small-town America as its heroes prove to be their own worst enemies."
A sportswriter with a gambling problem tries to help a trainer escape indictment for steroid abuse. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 2, 2006

"Billheimer's intricate riff on fakery is the real deal."
Nothing's what it seems in Billheimer's tale of bank fraud, baseball and bunkum in rural West Virginia. Read full book review >
DRYBONE HOLLOW by John Billheimer
Released: April 7, 2003

"Soap opera aside, Billheimer constructs a puzzle so ingenious that, like the folks in the Hollow, readers shoulda seen it coming—but they won't."
It's time for risk analyst Owen Allison to go back to Palo Alto to work on the reconciliation with his ex-wife Judith that was interrupted by his mother's chemotherapy (Dismal Mountain, 2001). But one mishap after another tempts Owen to linger in West Virginia. First, the dam atop Anson Stokes's unused Canaan II mine blows, filling Drybone Hollow with coal sludge and sweeping away the trailers belonging to Lyle Tanner and Anson's brother Cable—along with Lyle's wife Maddie and two hapless honeymooners from Tennessee. Then, Anson hires Owen to convince green-leaning judge Carter Vereen that despite the damage to Canaan II, his Canaan III is safe to operate. But instead of reopening Canaan III, Vereen orders an investigation of all impoundment dams sitting on mines. So state attorney general Hayes Boyer asks Owen to lead the investigation, adding that since Owen is a newcomer, he'll accept a kickback of only 15% of Owen's fee. Naturally refusing, Owen asks sheriff Thad Reader, his old friend, to help him set a trap to expose the rigged contracts. But Reader's got his hands full. Mary Beth Hobbs, mother of high-school pitching phenom Jeb Stuart Hobbs, has disappeared, and Reader thinks Cable may be holding her hostage. Chasing kidnappers, rooting out corruption, babysitting Jeb Stuart, and flirting with perky mine engineer Emily Kruk leaves Owen scant time for Judith, and no prospect of leaving his birthplace any time soon. Read full book review >
DISMAL MOUNTAIN by John Billheimer
Released: July 16, 2001

"There's a little too much recycling here, but, still, Billheimer has hit a rich enough vein to mine for quite a while as he continues to explore the delicate interaction between progress and preservation in rural West Virginia. "
Billheimer's latest takes up right where Highway Robbery (2000) left off. Still working on a reconciliation with ex-wife Judith, California highway engineer Owen Allison flies home to cope with the latest family emergency: His mother's been diagnosed with cancer and won't consent to surgery or chemotherapy. Meantime, another environmental crusader—this time, his aunt Lizzie—takes up arms against another despoiler of the West Virginia landscape—the Mountain View Development Corporation—which has lopped off half of Dismal Mountain to build a still-vacant shopping mall, and now threatens to fill in Doubtful Hollow with the remains of said mountain. When dump-truck driver Sam Mattingly meets his maker on his first run into the hollow, Lizzie is right at Sheriff Thad Reader's doorstep eager to make a confession as full of holes as a revenue agent running from a moonshiner. Owen's brief attempt to see what's really being dumped in the hollow lands him in St. Vincent's Hospital with assorted bruises and fractures, and coincidentally brings him face-to-face with Kate O'Malley, the latest of his former girlfriends to cross his path. But Owen's dalliance is different this time, as he revisits the person he was and the choices he made in the company of the woman who left him to become Sister Mary Perpetua. Read full book review >
HIGHWAY ROBBERY by John Billheimer
Released: Feb. 1, 2000

Seems like nobody's interested in building roads anymore. Not West Virginia Director of Transportation Alicia Fox, who, without an engineering degree, stalls every road project on her drawing board, installing self-destructing (but environmentally friendly) traffic cones, and verbally abusing Highway Commissioner George Allison, son of the corruption-busting late Commissioner Wayne Allison. Certainly not Mary Jewel Robertson, who leads her brigade of tomato-hurling environmentalists on a charge that stops Eddie Hager's road crew dead in its tracks in the middle of their repaving job on Gobbler's Grade. But not quite as dead as Ray Cantrip, whose body Hager's bulldozer unearths right under the asphalt. The discovery brings home George's brother Owen, hero of the Contrary transit scandal (The Contrary Blues, 1998), to investigate the death of his father's best friend—who's also Owen's best friend's father. As straight-arrow Owen grapples with the past, alcoholic George is plagued by the present: the loss of his job, the collapse of his marriage, and finally an indictment for murder after Mary Jewel is found dead in her apartment with his fingerprints on her front door. Accompanied by his ubiquitous ex-wife Judith, Owen digs up and repairs misdeeds past and present to prove the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Billheimer occasionally rushes his action, baiting the trap only to spring it a page or so later. But the intricately layered plot and gentle good humor make this a worthy successor to his first. Read full book review >
THE CONTRARY BLUES by John Billheimer
Released: June 17, 1998

Ever since a misplaced decimal point led the Department of Transportation to send Contrary, West Virginia, funding for twenty city buses instead of two—and to continue providing operating subsidies at that inflated level for four years—things have been looking up in the little coal town. Purvis Atkins, Contrary's mayor, has been diverting the windfall to a city health clinic, Meals on Wheels, and so many other worthy civic enterprises that when the scandal eventually comes out, a Wall Street Journal editorial comes down on Contrary's side. But there's a downside to the whole arrangement, too (even if you don't count massive taxpayer fraud): the suspiciously timely death of Transportation auditor Dwight Armitrage, followed by the intrigue that engulfs his straight-arrow successor Owen Allison, who finds himself drawn first into the bed of the bus system's comptroller, Mary Beth Hobbs, who just happens to be the mayor's sister; then into a coverup of the scam; and finally into a case of murder when a local crank who tries to divert the gravy train in his own direction gets himself killed by one of his hundred-plus enemies, and the cops come looking for Owen—and the only person who'll stand up for him is his highly inconvenient ex-wife. Billheimer seasons his debut with quiet humor, warmly appealing characters, and enough inventive plot twists to make a Contrarian out of straighter arrows than Owen. Read full book review >