Saturday, April 4, 2009

EASY INNOCENCE - Libby Fischer Hellmann

Georgia Davis is a former cop turned P.I. When she receives a request from Danny O'Malley, a cop she used to work with, asking her to look into a murder case on behalf of the accused, she agrees to help out. It seems that important people are making an especially great effort to hurry this case through the process and convict a mentally ill man with no prior history of violence. The crime? The brutal beating death of a high school girl named Sara Long.

When Georgia begins to investigate she finds far more than she bargained for: a prostitution ring where the prostitutes are high school girls. And someone definitely does not want Georgia anywhere near this case. Georgia needs to find answers before that someone finds her.

Easy Innocence is a bit longer than the average book at close to 400 pages, but that didn't prevent me from speeding through it. Several days during my lunch breaks, I looked up to notice I had read past my allotted time. Ooops. That's the effect this book had on me; it pulled me in and shut out the rest of the world.

The range of emotion I felt in regards to some of the characters was amazing. Georgia is dealing with some rather "well-to-do" adolescents and you can't help but be angry and repulsed by them for being so arrogant and self-consumed. But then when threat comes knocking on their back doors, they react like what they are, scared children. And then you can't help but want to wrap your arms around them and protect them. That's an extremely realistic effect to reproduce in a plot. So often once a reader dislikes a character, it's difficult to pull him/her in a different direction emotionally toward that character. Hellmann pulled it off flawlessly.

With Georgia, however, I never wavered in my connections with her. The realism, the dimension, the depth of her character is truly unmatched in crime fiction. She is a force to be reckoned with but only because she accepts who she is; she knows she isn't perfect:

...she caught a glimpse of herself in a mirrored panel on the wall. Some said she had hard features, especially when she wasn't wearing makeup. Today, with her blond hair pulled into a butterfly clip, she looked all nose, blue eyes, and pale skin. She started to tug at her fisherman's sweater, then stopped. She was what she was.

But, she's comfortable in her own skin, and that personality contrasts the culture of the people she's investigating. More than anything, Georgia is still a determined cop at heart. Her job is to find reasonable doubt for the client, but that just isn't enough:

... something inside her rebelled at doing that. Maybe Kelly was right. Maybe she still was a cop at heart. Cops didn't just create reasonable doubt. They solved crimes. Or maybe it was her ego. Maybe Georgia just wanted to prove to Robby Parker and the rest of the force that she knew what she was doing. Or maybe it was just that since the fire, the case had become personal. Self-preservation was an excellent motivator.

On one hand, the depth of Georgia's character makes me feel that character drives this plot. But the plot in and of itself is powerful as well. I thought the premise of the plot was unique. It may have been done in other books that I'm not aware of; this is the first time I've read anything remotely close to this concept. So many elements of this plot are realistic and thought-provoking and emotional. And as Georgia recognizes, it is far from black and white:

She went into her kitchen and stared out the window. The sun had set hours ago and the blackness outside lay in sharp contrast to her white curtains. The simplicity of the polar opposites was appealing. Black and white could never be confused, misread, or manipulated. She leaned her forehead against the glass. Somehow she doubted Sara Long's case would have the same clarity.

Easy Innocence is a book that will pull you in not only because you are making connections with characters but also because you become enthralled in the plot. Hellmann throws some zingers into the plot to give you even more for your money. And as an added bonus (should I try to do an info-mercial here?), you get an intimate look at Chicago.

Hellmann has definitely opened the door for Georgia Davis in the world of crime fiction. I look forward to more of this fabulous female character!

Easy Innocence was published by Bleak House Books in 2008. And for my audiophile friends, Easy Innocence is going to be released on audio book by Books in Motion this summer.


Corey Wilde April 4, 2009 at 3:45 PM  

This one has been in my TBR stack for a while. I guess I better bump it up toward the top.

Nice review, Jen.

JD Rhoades April 4, 2009 at 7:04 PM  

Several days during my lunch breaks, I looked up to notice I had read past my allotted time. Ooops. That's the effect this book had on me; it pulled me in and shut out the rest of the world.

That is the single greatest compliment you can give a writer.

Joy April 8, 2009 at 9:38 AM  

I'm so glad to see that you really enjoyed this read. I have it on my TBR Shelf and hope to get to it sometime this year.

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