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A Bitter Veil Paperback – April 15, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Publishers Weekly:
The Iranian revolution provides the backdrop for this meticulously researched, fast-paced stand-alone ...A significant departure from the author's Chicago-based Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis mystery series, this political thriller will please established fans and newcomers alike.   

Crimespree Magazine:
"Hellmann crafts a tragically beautiful story... both subtle and vibrant... never sacrificing the quality of her storytelling. Instead, the message drives the psychological and emotional conflict painting a bleak and heart wrenching tale that will stick with the reader long after they finish the book."
-Bryan VanMeter

She take(s) care to ensure that most of her characters are neither wholly good nor wholly evil. A departure from Hellmann's crime fiction, this welcoming novel may make a good introduction to an important culture and history for readers curious about Iran.

From the Author

This is a work of fiction. Several years ago when I was casting around for a new novel to write, I was chatting with another author about the themes I wanted to explore--I am drawn to stories about women whose choices have been taken away from them. How do they react? Do they simply surrender? Become victims? Or can some survive, even triumph over their travails? As we talked, I remember becoming captivated by a personal story told to me some years before. It contained elements of what I thought would be a great tale: young lovers who become ensnared by history, family complications, and the inherent conflict of a political and cultural revolution that turned some people into heroes, others into cowards. I imagined writing about the journey of a brave young woman confronted with almost insurmountable obstacles. The only problem was that there was no crime involved, and I write crime fiction. When I said that to my author friend, he looked at me as if I was a little strange, and said, "It's fiction. Find one."
I took his advice.

A caveat: Although A Bitter Veil is fiction, it is grounded in extensive research. For better or worse, the Iranian Revolution is one of the most well documented periods of world history, and I pored through many books, both fiction and nonfiction. I also read many articles and memoirs and viewed timelines, films and videos. I also interviewed and talked to at least five Iranian-Americans who lived in Iran during the revolution. They shared their experiences, their journeys, and their fears. One of them vetted the manuscript, specifically searching for factual and cultural errors. Any mistakes that remain are mine alone, for which I apologize in advance. Not surprisingly, perhaps, none of the Iranian-Americans I talked to wanted their names made public. They should know I will be forever in their debt. Because of their generosity, I was able to tell Anna's story.
There may be some who think I have unfairly created or perpetuated stereotypes in this book. It was never my intention to demonize the Iranian people or the revolutionaries who toppled the shah. However, history teaches us that the chaos and destruction of a political and cultural upheaval can cause human beings to act in extreme ways. It has happened before--the French, Russian, Chinese, and Cuban revolutions come to mind. It also happened in Iran. To that end, my object was to show the dissolution of a marriage, a family, and a culture, all of which could not stand up to the stress that revolution imposes. I hope the critics will take that into account. 

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Allium Press (April 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983193819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983193814
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Libby Fischer Hellmann is a critically acclaimed crime writer loved by readers the world over for her compulsively readable thrillers and strong female characters. Her fast-paced crime fiction spans 12 novels and over 20 short stories. She has also edited a popular crime fiction anthology called Chicago Blues. Her newest novel, (the first Ellie Foreman book in 10 years), JUMP CUT, will be released by Poisoned Pen Press in March, 2016.

With critics describing her work as "masterful" and "meticulously researched", it's not hard to see why Libby's thrilling and richly varied crime novels have won numerous awards. Libby is exceptionally committed to her work, and in 2005-2006 she was the National President of Sisters in Crime, a 3,400+ member organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of female mystery writers.

You can keep up to date with all Libby's news and views over at her blog, http://libbyhellmann.com/blog.

Libby started out in broadcast news, beginning her career as an assistant film editor for NBC News in New York before moving back to DC to work with Robin MacNeil and Jim Lehrer at N-PACT, the public affairs production arm of PBS. Retrained as an assistant director when Watergate broke, Libby helped produce PBS's night-time broadcast of the hearings. She went on to work for public relations firm Burson-Marsteller in Chicago in 1978, where she stayed until she left to found Fischer Hellmann Communications in 1985.

Originally from Washington, D.C.--where, she says, "When you're sitting around the dinner table gossiping about the neighbors, you're talking politics"-- Libby earned a Masters Degree in Film Production from New York University and a BA in History from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to writing, multi-talented Libby writes and produces videos, and conducts speaker training programs in platform speaking, presentation skills, media training and crisis communications.

Libby's best-selling novels have won widespread acclaim, with her first novel, An Eye for Murder, nominated for several awards and described by Publisher's Weekly as "a masterful blend of politics, history, and suspense."

Libby is known for her portrayal of strong female characters. An Eye for Murder introduced Ellie Foreman, a video producer and single mother who went on to star in several more novels in a series described by Libby as "a cross between Desperate Housewives and 24." Libby's second series followed the Chicago PI Georgia Davis, a no-nonsense detective who has been featured in three books so far, with a fourth due out next year. In addition to her hugely popular series, Libby has also written three standalone thrillers in diverse settings and historical periods that demonstrate her versatility as a writer. Through her "Revolution Trilogy," (Set the Night on Fire, A Bitter Veil, and Havana Lost) we meet young activists during the late Sixties, a young American woman who marries and moves to Tehran, and a female Mafia boss who chases power at the expense of love.

And if you've read this far, you deserve a gift! Sign up for Libby's newsletter and get a FREE copy of EASY INNOCENCE, the first mystery in the Georgia Davis PI series!

Just go here: libbyhellmann.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Libby Hellmann has written an extraordinary fiction book about the difficulty of a western woman living in Iran during the time period surrounding the Revolution of the late 1970's. I married an Iranian student and moved to Iran three years later. My own experience was very different. No one prevented me from leaving Iran, albeit I needed my husband's permission and had to pay an exit tax. But being married to an American woman shifted from being a prestigious asset to a frowned-upon liability almost overnight. I left my husband and his wealthy family with the knowledge that I was not considered a part of that family and never had been, and although I had earned income as a chemical engineer for most of the marriage, I would have nothing but a suitcase of clothing and $1,000 when I departed.

Although I filed for divorce in the U.S. upon my return in 1979, that still leaves one legally married in Iran. My husband later filed for divorce in Iran upon receipt of the U.S. decree. Couples register their foreign marriage, which made the marriage official in Iran for purposes of getting the Iranian identity card and passport. Most foreign wives kept dual citizenship. It's interesting to note that Iranian citizenship was automatic for a foreign wife, but not for a foreign husband of an Iranian woman. Even under the Shah, women were chattel by western standards. Upper class women had access to more freedom and the benefit of a foreign education. But their elevated status seemed chiefly due to their influential and protective family connections. Likewise, my freedom was never restricted, except for safety reasons when the streets became dangerous. But Hellmann precisely captures the Zeitgeist and tells the more harrowing story experienced by women less fortunate than I.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Iran is in the news these days and the issues are important to us all, so it was with interest that I picked up Libby Fischer Hellman's new novel, A Bitter Veil, set in the midst of the Iranian revolution that brought Khomeini to power. In a viscerally effective tale she brings that key moment to life, and we see it in a nuanced way that we would do well to carry into our understanding of the current crisis. I certainly remembered the overthrow of the shah and the hostage crisis, but I can't say I ever got inside that world until I read Hellman's book.

It is perhaps a cliché to say that some themes transcend time and stay central to the human experience throughout the ages. But it's still a profound notion despite its common currency. A Bitter Veil develops two such universal themes (along with other lesser ones, of course).

One of those themes Hellman succinctly identifies in her author notes:
"I am drawn to stories about women whose choices have been taken away from them. How do they react? Do they simply surrender? Become victims? Or can some survive, even triumph over their travails?"

Anna, Hellman's main character, hangs in a delicate balance throughout the novel, and we don't know how she'll manage when extremist Islam traps her inside Iran under a veil. She's no superhero, but she has to cope with extraordinary circumstances. When we meet her, she's a college student in Chicago hunting down a copy of Rumi's poetry. She meets Nouri, an Iranian engineering student, when he recites lines of Rumi to her at the bookstore. They are pretty typical college kids--sexual attraction, cultural exoticism, intelligent discussions, politics, all that heady brew draw them together. There are undercurrents of concern.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I read A BITTER VEIL, by Libby Fischer Hellmann, in practically one sitting. The novel begins in a frigid Chicago winter, when Anna Schroder and Nouri Samedi meet by chance in the Persian literature stacks of a local bookstore. Anna is buying books for her Middle Eastern literature class. It's an instant attraction that's sealed by Nouri reciting lines of Rumi to Anna.

Both are students: Anna, from Virginia, is pursuing her master's degree in English and Nouri has come to the U.S. from Iran to study engineering. Within a few months, they've fallen in love. Theirs is not an easy soft-focus Hallmark kind of love. It's a desperate and needy love, where they can barely let each other out of their sight and cling to each other as if addicted. Neither of them seem to have the internal strength to navigate life on their own.

The backdrop for the novel is the late 1970's, during the unrest leading up to Iranian Revolution. Nouri joins the local student group protesting the Shah; Anna soon follows. When Anna finishes her degree, they marry and move to Tehran, where Nouri wants to help rebuild his country. Anna, ashamed of her own family secrets, is welcomed into Nouri's with open arms. In spite of her discomfort with the opulence of the Iranian elite, Anna, at last, feels like she's found a home.

But, as Libby Fischer Hellman shows in chilling detail, the country soon slips off its axis. The Shah is overthrown and flees the country. Ayatollah Khomeini takes over and forms the Republican Guard. Women are relegated to second-class citizens, under the rule of their husband or closest male relative. Men are forced to conform. All traces of the Shah must be eradicated; the upper-class is especially vulnerable. Executions are common and anti-American sentiment is rampant.
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