Review by Gregg E. Brickman

Set the Night on Fire is Chicago author Libby Fischer Hellmann’s first stand-alone novel.

In Set the Night on Fire, Lila Hilliard returns home to Chicago for the Christmas holiday.  While she’s running an errand to replace a faulty string of tree lights, her family home bursts into flames killing her father and twin brother.  Investigators find the frayed wire and rule the fire accidental.  Lila isn’t comfortable with the ruling but feels powerless to object.

Lila’s mother died when Lila was an infant.  Her mother was a name without connections and a picture without history.  Her father was a man with secrets he wouldn’t share.  Lila digs into her father’s files hoping to find a link to family on her mother’s side.

Then someone tries to kill her, and a right-time, right-place stranger intervenes.  The police take a report but do not take Lila or the incident seriously.  When she is injured during a second attempt on her life, Lila sets aside her search for her roots and focuses on saving her life.

Lila’s link to the past and only ally is Dar Gantner, who spent forty years in prison for crimes committed in Chicago during the conflicted late sixties.  He is on parole and planning to settle unfinished business.  Once a leader among young idealists, Gantner discovers his fellow revolutionaries now embrace the very affluence, ideals, and lifestyles they once sought to change.

Hellmann takes the reader into the time of SDS, the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, and the riots at the Democratic Convention, not with a history lesson, but through the lives of her characters.  She pulls the turbulent sixties into the present where a father’s youthful idealism threatens to destroy his daughter’s less than idealistic present.

Set the Night on Fire is a thriller with fast-paced action, in-depth characterization, a personal view of history, and several twists in the plot.  It is an excellent and engrossing read.

In Hardcover and Trade Paperback
Allium Press of Chicago
December 2010