Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press 
Release Date: 2003
ISBN: 1590580737
Format Reviewed:
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Genre: Mystery, Private Investigator
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Lawrence Greenberg
Reviewer Notes:

A Picture of Guilt
Libby Fischer Hellmann

      Libby Hellmann's second novel, A Picture of Guilt, is a relatively entertaining read which is based solely on plotting. Ms. Hellmann is an accomplished plotter, even if her prose is not always strong. Her protagonist, Ellie Foreman, a divorced, Chicago-based videographer-amateur sleuth, frets over her 13-year-old daughter and her father both kvetching (complaining) about her life from time to time-including her successful boyfriend-and manages to embroil herself in what initially appears to be a murder mystery.

Thanks to Ms. Hellmann's facility at the unpredictable twist and turn, storywise, a murder mystery ultimately becomes a riveting techno-thriller. The last 50 pages in particular are a fast, entertaining read and do much to offset somewhat awkward use of the language.

     It seems Ellie has inadvertently captured an accused killer on videotape-far from the scene of the crime for which he's the alleged perpetrator-while shooting something completely unrelated. Seeking to free an innocent man, she makes her tape known to the authorities. Her subsequent appearance in court, testifying as to the circumstances of the video shoot, touch off a chain of events including: 1) ticking off her boyfriend, 2) having the omb express their annoyance at her, 3) the deaths of two other characters, 4) an attempt on her own life, and 5) the FBI coming to her door. Juggling the suspense of these events with the tsuris (grief) her teenage daughter occasionally brings her, as well as her own tiny pleasures (a great cup of coffee, an ergonomic office chair), is like shuttling back and forth between a personal diary and a bona-fide suspense novel, and is somewhat distracting. Thus, before that last 50 pages, the novel can be a bit tiresome, but luckily the wrapup is a winner.

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