Someone is trying to kill Lila Hilliard. During the Christmas holidays she returns from running errands to find her family home in flames, her father and brother trapped inside. Later, she is attacked by a mysterious man on a motorcycle. . . and the threats don’t end there.
As Lila desperately tries to piece together who is after her and why, she uncovers information about her father’s past in Chicago during the volatile days of the late 1960s . . . information he never shared with her, but now threatens to destroy her.
Part thriller, part historical novel, and part love story, Set the Night on Firepaints an unforgettable portrait of Chicago during a turbulent time: the riots at the Democratic Convention . . . the struggle for power between the Black Panthers and SDS . . . and a group of young idealists who tried to change the world.
SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE is a tense character driven thriller that opens in the present with the release of convict Dar Gantner. Shortly there after, people start dying.
Forty years ago Casey and Dar had been best friends. They came to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Shortly after arriving they meet Payton, Rain, Teddy, Alix and later, Billy. They form a family of sorts, each of them seeking that elusive “something”. From the radical to the one who seeks change through enlightenment they aren’t as disparate as they first appear. The events that occur between 1968 and 1970 have far reaching consequences.
Back to the present day and Lila Hilliard, Casey’s daughter, is being targeted. Someone is attempting to kill her. Why would someone want Lila dead?
SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE is comprised of three parts. The beginning is present day. Dar is released from prison after forty years. He contacts some old friends and within a very short time people begin to die. Why? What set this chain of events off? Someone has also targeted the daughter of his former best friend, Casey. Why Lila? What could she have possibly done or know?
The middle, the filling so to speak, consists of the past; those heady, turbulent years from 1968-70. Much occurs during those two years. We learn about past events that have a direct and deadly correlation on the future.
The final part returns us to the present day, right where we left off. Lila’s quest to survive and find out “who and why” is the focus. Not having a clue to either question has to be terrifying. One of the scariest things about Lila’s killer, in my opinion, was that he rode a motorcycle…in winter. Not just any bike either, a BMW H2 Enduro with off road tires. It can definitely be ridden in winter but who’d be crazy enough to do so?
Ms. Hellmann does a magnificent job of bringing one of the most tumultuous and violent times in American history to life. For those too young to have lived it or remember much, if anything, we can get a taste of it through these wonderful characters. We can experience the gamut of emotions, hopes, expectations and disillusionments experienced by not only a generation but a nation. I’m not sure I would have liked to live those years first hand but they make for fascinating reading.
SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE was for me personally, as much about the vividly drawn characters as the mystery of who wanted to kill Lila and why. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, clichéd but apropos for Dar. The choices and decisions he makes have a profound effect; not only on his life but the lives of those around him.
All the characters have their own unique appeal, yet of all the characters in the book Billy is the one who resonated the most with me. I found him to be the most poignant and the catalyst for future events. SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE has many layers with a clean and compelling style. If you enjoy a richly woven story that keeps you guessing I highly recommend SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE.
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