“I believe you. And I believe you want answers. For all the right reasons. But some things are better left alone. This is one of them.” – Tom Reimer
For Lila Hilliard it’s too late to leave things alone. Not after her father and brother are killed in a house fire that would have also taken her life had she not stepped out to run a quick errand and, shortly thereafter, a mysterious man on a motorcycle takes a few shots at her as she’s walking home one evening.
That attack is foiled by another unknown man, who again rescues Lila when a subsequent attempt to kill her by blowing up her apartment is made. Lila knows she’s been targeted by someone, and that she also has a guardian angel looking out for her. What she doesn’t know is who, or why.
When she goes digging for the truth she discovers her guardian angel, Dar Gantner, is a recent parolee who knew her father more than 40 years ago in Chicago during the turbulent anti-war student protests of the late 60’s. Gantner tells Lila a story that reveals a side of her parents she never knew existed, causing her to realize they were not the people she thought they were.
At one point they lived in a collective household along with four other friends, all of them full of piss and vinegar, ready to take on the system and change the world. Unfortunately one of the collective’s members was a bit too radical in his beliefs, and a protest gone wrong left one of the group dead, Gantner in jail, and the others scattered to the four corners determined to keep the secrets of the past. Thought long since dead and buried, those secrets have found new life in ways that will change Lila’s forever.
In Set the Night on Fire author Libby Fischer Hellmann has created an intense, atmospheric thriller, a portion of which is set against the backdrop of some truly historic events in American history. The anti-war protests of the 60’s were an integral part of a series of cultural touchstones that define a generation, yet which grow more removed from the collective consciousness with every passing year. As someone not quite old enough to remember those events firsthand, I found Hellmann’s descriptions to be wonderfully vivid, conjuring up a picture so crystal clear I almost felt as though I were there.
That flashback (no pun intended) serves to set the stage for the final third of the book, in which Lila and Gantner join forces to figure out who has reason to fear the past enough to kill in the present. And despite taking place in the bitter cold of a Chicago winter, Set the Night on Fire rockets to a red hot conclusion.
Set the Night on Fire is available from Allium Press (ISBN: 978-0984067664).