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St. Martin's, Jul 2001, $23.95, 304 pp.
The Mountain View Development Company began leveling Dismal Mountain, West Virginia in order to construct a mall. The firm bought out most residents but elderly Lizzie Neal refused to leave because this was the home of her ancestors and her parents were buried nearby. When the company sends trucks down from the mountaintop, an incident finally occurs. Lizzie's nephew Bobby Ray killed the driver who he swears fired at him first. Lizzie sets up the scene so it would seem she shot the driver.
Lizzie's nephew, transportation inspection consultant Owen Allison, comes home to visit his ailing mother and to help Lizzie. While Owen's mother recovers from cancer surgery, Sheriff Thad Reader explains to him that Lizzie's confession of being responsible appears phony. He asks Owen to try to learn the truth. As he makes some inquiries, Owen begins to uncover a dark conspiracy to fund the Dismal Mountain Project, which places his life in danger.
DISMAL MOUNTAIN is an exciting and relevant Owen Allison mystery that highlights the environmental versus economy issue. The story line is entertaining due to the strong secondary characters that help bring West Virginia alive while providing depth to Owen through his family members and his former college sweetheart. John Billheimer makes mystery reading fun (see HIGHWAY ROBBERY and THE CONTRARY BLUES for additional pleasure).