Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Set the Night On Fire, by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Allium Press, December 2010,

Forty years ago, idealistic young Americans wanted to end the Vietnam War, make a more just society, change the world. Forty years later, a secret involving one group of those once-young people is causing a string of murders.

Dar Gantner, Alix Kerr, Julie Bergman, Casey Hilliard, Teddy Markham, and Payton meet accidentally in Chicago the summer of the 1968 Democratic convention. They're all to varying degrees involved in the protests, and in the aftermath they become housemates and friends, becoming both closer and more divided as their political and personal interests develop and change. It culminates two years later, with the bombing of a downtown Chicago department store that three of them are involved in. Alix, though not involved, is killed. Dar Gantner is the only one arrested and charged.

Forty years later, Dar is just emerging from prison. He starts to pick up the threads of his life, getting acquainted with four decades of social and technological change. He has a lingering question, though, about his old comrades and the bombing. He starts contacting people.

Casey Hilliard has raised the twins, Lila and Daniel, that Alix gave birth to shortly before her death. Casey hasn't got the answers Dar wants, but he gives him some information and Dar goes on his way.

Not long after, while the now-grown twins are visiting for Christmas, an electrical fire destroys the Hilliard home. Lila was out buying new Christmas lights, but her father and brother are killed.

Just a tragic accident.

Except that Rain and Payton are also soon dead in tragic accidents, and Dar returns from one of his trips to find that his apartment has been rather thoroughly tossed.

When Lila is nearly killed in a grenade attack on her brother's condo, Dar becomes even more determined to find answers. The problem is that Lila has no reason to trust a man who did forty years for murder.

The story winds through both time periods, and the characters grow, change, and reveal their true selves. It's a neat historical thriller, and a contemporary mystery, and a compelling story of well-drawn and complex characters. Recommended.

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.