Friday, April 4, 2008

"Easy Innocence"

Libby Fischer Hellmann has edited the acclaimed crime fiction anthology, Chicago Blues, and published over a dozen short stories. Her four novels featuring Chicago video producer and amateur sleuth Ellie Foreman have won numerous awards.

Her fifth novel, Easy Innocence, featuring newly-minted PI Georgia Davis, is a spin-off from the Ellie Foreman series. It grew out of Hellmann's experience with her own daughter, and what she imagined as "every mother's nightmare."

She applied the Page 69 Test to Easy Innocence and reported the following:
From Page 69:

“So what else did this – Davis woman ask?” Lauren said.

Claire picked at her jacket, although there was no lint in sight. “She wanted to know who took Sara away.”

“What did you tell her?”

“The truth.” When Lauren winced, she added, “I had to. The cops already know anyway.”

“Of course. You’re right. What else?”

Claire shrugged.

Heather gave a theatrical sigh. “Claire, I’m sure you can be more specific. Think.”

“Well...” Claire looked from Heather to Lauren, drawing out the moment. “I told her about Sara sticking her nose into everyone’s business.”

Heather rolled her eyes.

“You know, all the stuff we talked about. Like how Sara had to know what everyone was doing.”

Lauren didn’t reply.

“What’s wrong?” Claire asked, her tone defensive. “The police know that too.”

“Did you tell her about the blindfold?” Heather asked.

Claire nodded. “And the bucket. How grody it was, and how bad it smelled.”

“What else?” Lauren asked.

“I said the Seniors may have wanted to teach her a lesson, but nobody wanted her to get hurt. I told her the crazy guy definitely did it.” She looked back at Lauren as if for approval.

“Did she ask who the Seniors were?” Lauren asked.

Claire nodded.

“What names did you give her?”

“Annie Chernow, Judy Bobalik, Monica Ramsey…” Claire recited.

“You told her Monica Ramsey was there?”

Easy Innocence was a departure for me in many ways. It introduces a new protagonist, Georgia Davis, formerly a cop and now a PI. It’s a darker, more disturbing book than I’ve written previously. It focuses on high school girls and the lengths they go to in order to be accepted by their peers.

There are several twists in the story, which are revealed much like the layers of an onion, but this passage actually delves into the heart of the plot. It’s a hurried conversation between Lauren Walcher, one of the major characters in the book, and her friends during a break from classes. Lauren is trying to prise out what Georgia may have learned about Sara Long, her friend who was murdered during a hazing incident a few days earlier.

Lauren is worried – and she ought to be – because she and Sara have been hiding a whopper of a secret. Still, despite her fear, she and Heather can’t quite suppress the arrogance and certainty that so many girls from affluent families display. In fact, their sense of entitlement – of expecting the world will conform to their seventeen-year-old dreams and goals – is part of what drives the plot and eventually proves their undoing.
Read an excerpt from Easy Innocence, and learn more about the author and her work at Libby Fischer Hellmann's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue