Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Doubleback by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Doubleback by Libby Fischer Hellmann. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Doubleback by Libby Fischer Hellmann

A Georgia Davis Mystery

Bleak House Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-60648-052-9 (1606480529)
ISBN-13: 978-1-60648-052-6 (9781606480526)
Publication Date: October 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: Libby Fischer Hellmann brings her two series characters together to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the kidnapping of a young girl in Doubleback, the second mystery to feature Chicago private investigator Georgia Davis, with an appearance by documentary producer Ellie Foreman.

Ellie Foreman responds to a request from her best friend to council the mother of a kidnapped girl by calling in Georgia Davis. Together, they plead with Christine Messenger, who was told not to call the police, to let the authorities handle the situation. She reluctantly agrees. Much to everyone's surprise, Christine's daughter is returned several days later, unharmed. Christine is so thrilled to have her daughter back that she doesn't question what happened in the interim, and only wants to get on with her life. But that life is tragically cut short when she is in a fatal car accident only days later. But that only raises more questions for Ellie and Georgia, who continue to investigate what really happened during the period of the little girl's kidnapping ... and together they uncover a far-reaching conspiracy that may have implications for the country's security.

Doubleback suffers primarily from an embarrassment of too many well conceived, though not fully realized plot points. The author creates storylines involving the girl's kidnapping, bank fraud, private national security firms, illegal immigration, Mexican cartels, drug trafficking, profiteering from ethanol production, and, oh yes, a radical family that runs a winery in Arizona. To be fair, these disparate elements are all eventually linked together, and in a reasonably logical manner, but the path there has so many detours and side trips that it's hard for the reader to remain fully engaged along the way.

Another minor issue is the inclusion of Ellie's character in the story. Though told in first person from Ellie's perspective, Georgia is most definitely the lead character in Doubleback with Ellie relegated to at best a minor role. It seems her appearance here is little more than a contrivance.

Something Hellmann does very well in her novels is to include factoids that illuminate and help define certain plot points. Not only do they add depth and interest, they're often educational and entertaining. Two that come to mind here are how banks can loan money they don't have, and that not only does the desert southwest have a good climate for growing grapes, there are actually a fair number of wineries based in Arizona.

Special thanks to Bleak House Books for providing an ARC of Doubleback for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Little Molly Messenger is kidnapped on a sunny June morning. Three days later she's returned, apparently unharmed. Molly's mother, Chris, is so grateful to have her daughter back that she's willing to overlook the odd circumstances.

A few days later, the brakes go out on Chris's car.

An accident? Maybe. Except that it turns out that Chris, the IT manager at a large Chicago bank, may have misappropriated three million dollars. Not convinced that his daughter is safe, Molly's father hires PI Georgia Davis to follow the money and investigate Chris's death.

Working with video producer Ellie Foreman, the two women track leads from Northern Wisconsin to an Arizona border town, where illegal immigrants, smuggled drugs, and an independent contractor called Delton Security come into play. Georgia and Ellie go to great lengths to find the truth, and Georgia discovers that you can cross a line, but sometimes you have to double back.

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