August 1944. Prague is where the story begins, with a seemingly casual exchange. But in wartime, is any act, any one thing, trivial? Decades later, in contemporary Chicago, the consequences emerge through the medium of television. Documentary filmmaker Ellie Foreman gets a letter prompted by the success of her show Celebrate Chicago. One viewer was the elderly Ben Sinclair. When he suddenly dies, his landlady, Mrs. Fleischman, finds Ellie's name among his effects and writes to her.
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The big news story in Chicago is the murder trial of Johnny Santoro, a dock worker whose girlfriend has been killed. Most Chicagoans are betting on a quick guilty verdict, but Ellie Foreman has doubts about his complicity - Santoro is strangely familiar to her. Checking back to the outtakes of a video project in progress while the murder took place, Ellie finds evidence that could save Santoro from a lifetime behind bars.
An Image of Death sees Ellie in the midst of producing another video documentary, financed by a successful Chicago real estate developer. But things take an unexpected turn one winter night when a mysterious package arrives anonymously on Ellie's doorstep. Inside, she finds a surveillance video apparently showing the murder of a young woman. Who was the victim, why was she murdered, and what is her connection to Ellie?
Returning from a video shoot at the Lodge, a newly renovated, upscale resort, Ellie Foreman befriends a woman who claims her ride abandoned her at a highway rest stop. But Ellie's kindness is brutally cut short when a pickup truck pulls up, the rear window opens, and the woman is shot dead. Even with her history of sleuthing, Ellie is not eager to get involved. Then the victims' family arrives and begs for information. When the second shooting occurs, Ellie decides to poke around on her own.
Hired to produce a candy-floss profile of Chicago-based aviation giant Delcroft, Ellie is dismayed when company VP Charlotte Hollander trashes the production and cancels the project. Ellie believes Hollander was spooked by shots of a specific man in the video footage. But when Ellie arranges to meet the man to find out why, he is killed by a subway train before they can talk. In the confusion, she finds a seemingly abandoned pack of cigarettes with a flash drive inside that belonged to the now-dead man.