***Jump Cut

boy, desert

(photo: Claus Rebler, creative commons license)

By Libby Fischer Hellmann – In Jump Cut, Chicago-based thriller author Hellmann brings her outspoken heroine Ellie Foreman back for another exciting adventure after a 10-year hiatus. In the new book, video producer Foreman and her team have been hired to produce a series of puff pieces about ginormous Delcroft Aviation.

Her project is going well until a client meeting to review a rough cut, when a Delcroft executive unexpectedly tears into the video, the project, and Ellie herself. Given the vehemence of this reaction, the suits around the table have no choice but to postpone further work, and in short order they cancel Ellie’s contract altogether.

Ellie struggles to figure out what caused her to lose her client and fixes on a stranger who appears in the background of the video. She’d conversed with him, finding him oddly curious about her project, and they’d exchanged business cards. In the hope he can help her understand what went wrong, he agrees to meet her, but just before their rendezvous, he is killed. Suicide, the authorities say. Ellie suspects otherwise, especially when she realizes she possesses a flash drive containing significant clues. But various people want it back and aren’t picky about how they get it.

With its up-to-the-minute subject matter involving sophisticated surveillance, secret drone projects, quasi-political assassination, and international intrigue, Jump Cut is a timely, fast-paced read. The plot relies on a couple of shaky coincidences, especially finding the flash drive in the first place. And it includes the typical device of not spilling to the authorities when every bone of the reader’s body is screaming “Tell them! Now!”

Ellie’s close and believable relationships with boyfriend Luke, daughter Rachel, and dad Jake provide a warm counterpoint to the terrifying situation in which she finds herself. Hellmann writes in a breezy, easy-to-read style, but ultimately, the writing style is a jarring contrast to the book’s bleak take on the modern zeitgeist, in which the killing of innocent people is seen “as not just an acceptable but an inevitable part of war. Collateral damage.” That point is underscored a bit heavily by a prologue that recounts the death of a nine-year-old boy in a dusty desert on the far side of the world. We don’t hear another word about him until the epilogue, as a mother laments the loss of her children. Not until then do we know who he and his sister were and what their deaths have been: collateral damage.

A longer version of this review appeared on CrimeFictionLover.com.