Mystery Authors You May Have Missed
John Billheimer

Photo of John Billheimer

An industrial engineer, John Billheimer currently resides in California, having spent much of his career as the vice president of a consulting firm specializing in transportation research. He returned to his native state of West Virginia on a research trip and was inspired to create his first novel, The Contrary Blues, by the independence and resourcefulness of the people he met. He is married with two children.

What he writes: Much like Billheimer himself, Owen Allison is a native West Virginian living in California. Though not a transportation researcher, Allison is a risk analyst. On return trips home, and successive installments in the series, Allison is called upon to investigate crimes ranging from mishandled public bus funding and highway commission scandals, to a missing museum curator and contention over the construction of a strip mall. Beneath these seemingly banal and bureaucratic acts of corruption are intrigues that include Allison being framed for murder, identifying unearthed human remains (possibly his father’s), and his on-and-off love affair with his soon-to-be ex-wife. Billheimer’s depiction of the poverty and pluck of the residents of small town West Virginia is amusing and, at times, inspiring.


List of works
Owen Allison mysteries
  The Contrary Blues (1998)
  Highway Robbery (2000)
  Dismal Mountain (2001)
  Drybone Hollow (2003)
  Stonewall Jackson's Elbow (2006)


The Drood Review named The Contrary Blues one of the ten best mysteries of 1998.

What the critics say
Regarding The Contrary Blues - "Billheimer's first novel is a well-written, tough-to-solve mystery. The descriptions of government procedures are on target, and the West Virginia hill country is effectively evoked. Billheimer thoughtfully reflects on friendship, family, and doing the right thing in an ambiguous situation.... Evoking K. C. Constantine's Mario Balzic novels, this impressive debut bodes well for a strong series." - John Rowen, Booklist (April 15, 1998)
Regarding Highway Robbery - "With his easy-going style and meticulous attention to detail, Billheimer not only entertains but raises some philosophical questions in this morally complex story of government corruption and the battle between development and preservation." - Publishers Weekly (January 31, 2000)
Regarding Dismal Mountain - "[A] first-rate crime novel. There are plenty of mysteries featuring amateur sleuths whose primary occupation is only peripherally connected with law enforcement (reporters, writers, safety inspectors), but Allison is one of the most believable and most entertaining of the bunch. Billheimer's characters are so vividly drawn they threaten to wander off the page and into the real world." - David Pitt, Booklist
Regarding Drybone Hollow - "Billheimer's West Virginia is unlikely to please the state's tourism bureau, but it's a fine place for readers to visit for humor and homicide." - Peter Cannon, Publishers Weekly (March 3, 2003)


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