August, 1944, Prague is where the story begins with a seemingly casual exchange. But in wartime, is any act, any one thing, trivial?
Decades later, in contemporary Chicago, the consequences emerge through the medium of television. Documentary filmmaker Ellie Foreman gets a letter prompted by the success of her show “Celebrate Chicago.” One viewer was the elderly Ben Sinclair. When he suddenly dies, his landlady Mrs. Fleischman finds Ellie’s name among his effects and writes to her. Ellie, who hasn’t a clue about a connection to Ben, is curious. And she agrees to help dispose of Ben Sinclair’s possessions. She became a filmmaker to help people tell their stories.
The books and wartime relics Ben left behind—will they be enough to tell his? All too soon, Mrs. Fleischman dies. Then Ben’s things are stolen from Ellie’s suburban home. The single mom, working to move past her ex, doesn’t know what to think. But she has to scramble for work and is soon embroiled in producing a campaign video for a steel magnate running for a Republican seat in the Illinois Senate. Despite these distractions, Ellie stays focused on her odd link to the dead man and turns to her father, a retired lawyer with deep roots in Chicago’s Jewish community, for insights into the mystery of Ben Sinclair. In time, a terrifying scenario develops that reaches back into several pasts.
From the political present of the North Shore to the buried memories of the city’s ethnic neighborhoods, the components of Ben’s story eventually merge into an explosive climax.
“A masterful blend of politics, history, and suspense, this novel is well worth reading… sharp humor and vivid language… Ellie is an engaging amateur sleuth. Readers will hope they won’t have to wait too long for Ellie’s return.” Publishers Weekly
“A clever blend of thrills and humor… Hellmann has created a compelling group of believable characters…” Chicago Sun-Times
“Complicated… fascinating… Hellmann has a beautifully tuned ear… which makes many of her scenes seriously funny.” Chicago Tribune
Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Eleven published novels and twenty short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery writing community and has even won a few. More at https://libbyhellmann.com