|Libby Fischer Hellmann: An Image of Death|
Pen Press (Hardcover), ISBN 1-59058-101-6
The ending left me confused. A little nitpicking detail bothered me, so I emailed the author and asked. She explained that the ending provided "an illustration of how greed makes formerly decent people do things that they would never think of doing."
Hellmann's answer failed to clarify matters for me. Perhaps other readers will find her ending smooth and flawless. I do agree, however, that greed makes a delightful premise for a murder mystery. An Image of Death offers Hellmann's readers another suspenseful mystery of far reaching proportions. Set in Chicago, the mysterious events reach around the world.
Ellie Foreman, documentary film producer, minds her own business and lives a relatively simple life in Chicago. She dutifully and lovingly cooks matzo ball soup and brisket, and makes room for her widowed father in her life. She raises and shares her teenage daughter with her ex-husband. She also works hard at maintaining her relationship with David, whose connection she finds difficult to categorize.
In the past, Ellie's curiosity led her into some close calls and earned her a somewhat negative reputation with the local cops. That reputation, coupled with an utterly humiliating experience as a shoplifter, scares Ellie away from law enforcement. When someone drops off a snuff tape at Ellie's door, she hesitates to share the film with the police, taking it instead to her film buddies where they cut a copy. The author's narrative on film making techniques and details lends another level of believability to the mystery.
This credibility proves critical to the story. An Image of Death takes a seemingly benign tale of urban bad guys and spins it into a suspenseful thriller about an international diamond-smuggling, sex-slave circle of evil. Who knew a self-employed housewife like Ellie could be such a magnet for villains? Coincidentally, David's search for family ties (the Holocaust killed most of his relatives) brings a much-needed clue to Ellie's current mystery.
Although personally, I think this book wobbles a bit, I continue to enjoy Ellie Foreman and her Chicago. The city actively participates in Hellmann's novels, rather than staying in the background like too many mystery book settings.
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