THE CONTRARY BLUES by John Billheimer


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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.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18565-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998


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