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Mystery, Private Investigator
Picture of Guilt
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.
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.