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.