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by Libby Fischer Hellmann
Prime Crime, July 2003
324 pages
ISBN: 0425191079

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A PICTURE OF GUILT is the second book featuring Ellie Foreman. The first mystery featuring Ellie was AN EYE FOR MURDER.

Ellie Foreman is an industrial filmmaker. She produces videos for industrial companies about their safety techniques, or staff solidarity, or for promotional reasons. While on vacation, she sees a picture of Johnnie Santoro. He is currently under arrest for the murder of his girlfriend. Something about Santoro looks familiar and Ellie keeps pushing until she remembers him. While shooting a film for the water commission, Santoro appeared on the tape passed out on the beach. Surprisingly this tape was filmed the night Santoro was supposed to have killed his girlfriend.

Ellie steps forward and brings her information to Santoro’s lawyer. Unfortunately, her kind act does not help the trial. Ellie finds herself involved with murder and a cover up resulting from the trial. As if that is not a big enough problem, both the mob and the FBI become part of her life. Ellie decides to help find the murderer before she becomes his next victim.

Ellie is not a very secure person. She has no idea what she wants in a relationship – in fact, her understanding of a relationship is convoluted. Her 13-year-old daughter is out carousing with older teenagers and getting into a lot of trouble. Although Ellie gets mad, she does not seem to punish her daughter much simply because the situation could have been worse or she herself did worse as a child. That might be accurate; however, it is not a very successful parenting strategy.

The main drive of the mystery is itself interesting. Why would you frame an innocent person? Why are those who know the truth being killed? Is the mob involved or not? Unfortunately, not enough attention was given to these questions. Ellie’s familial issues overshadowed the plot and mystery. The book felt as though it was in constant struggle between Ellie and the murder. It felt as though Hellmann had not yet decided what was the focus and purpose of her book.

A PICTURE OF GUILT is mostly a character driven mystery and will not satisfy a fan of plot driven mysteries. The book had a great foundation; unfortunately, the book lacked any development. Once Hellmann has decided which of these two mystery sub-genres to focus on, her writing will gain strength and there will not longer be the struggle between plot and character.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, August 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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