on February 25, 2011
Wow! What a great read.
Libby Fischer Hellmann's Set the Night on Fire is an interesting thriller and historical look back to the Summer of Rage in 1960s Chicago. Very authentic feel and trip down memory lane to the music of the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors and the anti-Vietnam war protests. I knew some of these characters in my university days(though none that set off any bombs).
I highly recommend this book to anyone, but it will be especially meaningful to Baby Boomers.
James A Anderson, Author
on November 18, 2010
Lila Hilliard went out to get replacement Christmas lights for the Christmas tree. When she returned home she found her father's house ablaze, her father and twin brother dead and her life turned upside down. Why was the mysterious motorcycle rider trying to kill her? And did she have a savior or a second assassin after her?
Libby Fischer Hellmann has done it again. SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE is a compelling story of old friends, old causes, old secrets. Told in two voices, today's and yesterday's, this thriller will keep you turning the page until all is revealed.
One of the most interesting things I found here is Ms Hellmann's writing style changed between the present day story and the back story. At first it bothered me, but the more I thought about it, the more brilliant it became.
If you're under 45 you will enjoy learning about the attitudes of the country in the late 60's. If you're older you will find yourself nostalgic for your younger passions.
on November 30, 2010
Seldom has a novel left me with such a set of conflicted impressions as has Libby Fischer Hellmann's first stand-alone novel, Set the Night on Fire. One part of me loves the book as a solidly written thriller, another part cringes at how accurately Hellmann pegged the absurdity of the 1960s revolutionaries, and a final part of me just cannot take the book's two main villains seriously. The first two points are so solidly in Hellmann's favor, however, that I can easily get past my villain problem.
Lila Hilliard is on the run. Her father and brother have just died in a mysterious house fire and now someone is trying to kill her. Her problem is that she has no idea who is chasing her, or why. What she does know is that she is still alive only because her would-be assassin is not very good at his job - so far - and that she seems to have acquired a human guardian angel somewhere along the way. And when that guardian angel steps forward to identify himself, Lila learns things about herself and her father that turn her life upside down.
She learns that her parents, along with a few thousand other college students and college drop-outs, came to Chicago in 1968 to protest the Viet Nam War at the Democratic National Convention being held there. Unfortunately for Lila, her parents became involved with a small group of domestic terrorists willing to use bombs to make their point. Innocent people were killed, arrests were made, and people went to prison - her father, among them. Now someone wants to kill anyone even remotely connected to that group of friends, including, apparently, their children. This is good thriller material and Hellmann develops it well.
More than a third of the book is told in flashback to the years between 1968 and 1970. This is the portion of the book in which Hellmann develops her characters and introduces political and personal conflicts between them that will have major repercussions in the present. To Hellmann's credit, this is also the portion of Set the Night on Fire that I found most difficult to read. Her portrayal of the radicals is so accurate that it reminded me of everything I hated about the sixties, especially the naïve pretentiousness of empty-headed terrorists willing to bomb private property at the risk of innocent lives in order to make some political point they only half understood. Sadly, just as in real life, some of the people in Hellmann's novel still live in Chicago where they are corrupting yet another generation of young people. That Hellmann could make me feel the same level of contempt for these people that I felt in the sixties and seventies is, indeed, a credit to her writing skills.
Set the Night on Fire is a nice blend of thriller with historical fiction, one that should be of interest to those that have been around long enough to have experienced the sixties for themselves and to those who only remember hearing their parents speak of those days.
Rated at: 4.0
on September 18, 2013
LIbby Fischer Hellmann is a great mystery writer and her books hold your attention from beginning to end. This one is no exception. I would suggest taking Libby along on vacation. You could relax and read and really enjoy one of her books. It is fast reading, a good story and will introduce you to a very good mystery writer.
on July 20, 2015
Another amazing read from author Libby Fischer Hellmann, "Set The World On Fire", moves with difficult heartbreak through decades for a conflicted family. Successful financial planer Lila Hilliard comes home for the Christmas holidays eager to spend time with her father and twin brother, Danny. A simple thing like Christmas lights not working on the tree will change Lila's life forever. Upon returning home from store with several new sets of lights, Lila sees her home being destroyed by fire. Lila's father and brother are killed in the blaze. The fire marshal determines faulty lights on Christmas tree started blaze. Lila knows she'd unplugged all the lights before leaving for the store. When a mystery man on a motorcycle takes shots at Lila, she's lucky a passer by knocked her down and covered her from bullets. When a grenade is thrown at Danny's apartment, where Lila has been staying, Lila needs answers. With a plot that winds back to the 1968-70 era in Chicago, the story sizzles with suspense. From the 1968 DNC in Chicago, and along with the Chicago 7, it's very difficult to put down. The twists and turns inside the story really made it interesting with a historical slant. The carefully sculpted characters added immensely to the quick flow of the book. The intricately built, and developed characters were an enjoyment to root for throughout the book. I've read several of author Libby Fischer Hellmann's books and it seems they get better and better with each book of her's I pick up. I've now moved Ms. Hellmann to number two on my Goodreads favorite authors list. Quickly I'm already starting on another book in her Ellie Foreman series. Along with Ms. Hellmann's Georgia Davis series, "Set The World On Fire" is top notch. I'd highly recommend this 5 stars out of a possible 5 stars book. Do not miss this amazing read. If you're not already reading any of Libby Hellman's wonderful stories, you're missing a great storyteller.
on August 7, 2011
It's the year 1968. The United States of America. Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. has been assassinated in April in Memphis. U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy has been killed in June in Los Angeles. And in August the Chicago Seven have been arrested for conspiracy to incite a riot at the Democratic National Convention.
Libby Fischer Hellmann sets her genre-defying novel in the Chicago of 1968...and forty years later. The novel is a historical thriller, a "politically-charged whodunit," a hippie love story and/or a fictional classic about the anti-war protestors of The Sixties. Her characters are six college drop-outs: Dar, Casey, Alix, Rain, Payton and Teddie. Gar is the leader of the group. He's the son of a blue-collar auto worker and a Michigan MOBE - Mobilization to End the War. He has helped organize busloads of students to drive from Ann Arbor to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to protest the war in Vietnam.
Hellmann begins her novel, Part One: The Present, with co-narrators. Lila Hilliard is in Chicago to celebrate the Christmas holiday with her father, Casey, and her twin brother. Dar Gartner is in Chicago having been released from prison after forty years of incarceration. Lila has been shopping for tree lights and returns to find her father and brother have perished in a devastating house fire. Dar attempts to call old friends and finds himself on the run.
Part Two: 1968-70 introduces Gar's friends who stayed around Chicago after the riots. Alix, the daughter of a wealthy department store owner. Rain, with her round glasses, platinum hair and enthusiasm. Casey and Teddie, who were students at Michigan with Gar. Payton, who spouts propaganda with every breath, from a campus in Iowa. We visit Chicago sights - The Coliseum, Grant Park, the Maxwell Street markets, the commune in Old Town. We hear of a department store bombing. A member of the commune is killed.
Part Three: The Present redeems the past and solves the mysteries. Lila learns about her mother. Dar finds answers to unresolved questions.
And we the readers discover or relive this fascinating part of American history.
on July 14, 2016
Dar Gantner, recently released from prison, is looking up some of his old friends only to find that one has died in an 'accident', another has died in a home fire along with his son. His friend's daughter, Lila, was fortunate not to be home when the fire started. Another friend, Rain, had an unfortunate car accident after she has helped him with some information he needed.
Lila tries to find some information about her mother's family when she begins to think someone is trying to kill her. Dar rescues her after her brother's home has been hit with a grenade. Lila is not sure if she can trust Dar after hearing he has spent the last 40 years in prison for bombing her grandfather's store.
This is where the author takes us back in time to 1968 when the Democratic National Convention is being held in Chicago.
Hopefully, Lila and Dar can find the answers they are looking for.
Every so often a novel comes along that connects with the reader in such a visceral way that it is like a punch in the stomach. This is such a story. If you lived through the nineteen-sixties and your memory is reasonably intact, or you learned even a small amount about those turbulent times, you will connect with this story.
On one level this is the story of Lila Hilliard. Forty-some years after a particular series of spectacular and dangerous events in Chicago that revolved around a nasty far-off war and a political convention, a mysterious fire has robbed her of the only family she has ever known. At about the same time, a man named Dar Gantner, just released from prison, returns to Chicago from prison to reconnect with a few of his former companions from the same era. One, a woman named Rain, tells Dar that another of their mutual friends has just met with an odd fatal accident. It is clear in their conversation that Rain doesn't entirely believe that it was an accident.
From that moment on it becomes apparent that dark and unknown forces are at work. But why? Who are these people we meet at the beginning of the book, who targets them and why? Through a series of small and then progressively longer flashbacks we are transported to a time when young people believed the rhetoric, that they could indeed change the outcomes of momentous happenings, that they could affect the course of the most powerful nation in the world. Some of those players, whatever they believed, moved on to build calm and substantial lives of commerce, and politics, and contemplative existences. They don't want to relive any part of that time.
Most readers alive today will have memories of the Chicago convention of 1968, or of the riots and will begin again to remember the emotions of the time. And even if not, the measured, artful, portioning out of connections, of information, will bring those emotions to the surface. On another level, this is the telling of the great events of the late sixties, the crimes and the abuses and the trails that descended from them, not from the newspaper headlines or the televised reports, but through the eyes and hearts of some of the young people at the center of the conflicts. But this is no polemic, nor is it an attempt to change the record. What the author has done is produce a cracking good thriller that grips a reader by the throat and doesn't let go until the final pages. One after another the revelations keep coming, and as the central characters struggle to stay alive long enough to solve their mysteries, the author maintains our interest in the love story, the history and the dynamics of the times. It doesn't matter your political beliefs, then, or now; the characters and their trials will reach off the pages of this fine novel and touch you in ways that are basic to our existence as human beings. This is a fine, fine novel that well deserves the accolades it will surely receive.
on March 28, 2011
I'd actually give this book a 4 1/2 if it were possible.
This was a great read. For me, a real page turner. I admit I might be inclined towards it since about a third of the book was dedicated to a fictional group of people who share my biography; in the summer of '68, I was 18 and in Chicago, and I was between my freshman and sophomore years in college, though I didn't drop out of school. And so far as I know, none of my friends pondered violence to make their (our) point. Though we certainly had a point of view.
As much as I enjoyed the historical link, I actually was more interested in the story of the present. Lila, a strong, smart and competent woman, a person of the *next generation, who has suffered the unfathomable loss of her family, realizes someone is out to get her, but hasn't a clue who it might be or why it might be. And it becomes apparent she has some kind of guardian angel....
I'm sure it did help a bit, that the author referenced a number of places I've known. But I honestly think I would have enjoyed it as much had it been set in San Francisco. Or New York. Or Boston, or Philadelphia. But of course, it was the summer of '68, so it wouldn't have been set anywhere other than Chicago.
Truly a well crafted novel, and I enjoyed my weekend of reading. Thank you, Ms. Hellman.
on December 19, 2011
Lila Hilliard has reluctantly come home for Christmas; her father is recovering from hip surgery and needs her, but she doesn't really get along with her twin brother Danny any longer. A quick errand to get some new lights for the Christmas tree takes longer than she expected, and when she returns the house is in flames. Both her father and brother perish in the inferno. The official verdict is a faulty string of lights, but Lila was certain she had unplugged the tree before leaving the house. A few days later a stranger on a motorcycle shoots at her, missing only because a good Samaritan intervenes. Clearly someone is after her and her family. But why?
Before Lila (or the reader) can get an answer to this present day mystery, we need some back story. And so Hellmann drops the suspense to take us back to 1968-1970 Chicago and a group of college drop-outs who are passionate about challenging the establishment, ending the war in Vietnam, and changing society.
Hellmann is a good writer. The first and third part of this book prove that she can craft a suspenseful plot with sufficient twists and turns to keep the reader's interest (though I had figured out the bad guys much earlier than our heroine and hero, who seemed ridiculously clueless and naïve in their actions). The main problem I had with this book, however, is the long detour back in time that Hellmann took in the Part Two (Chapters 22 through 44) in order to set up the great conspiracy. This took far too long to explain the important connections and motives, and completely disrupted the flow of the central plot.