Review

Red, White & Dead: An Izzy McNeil Novel

by Laura Caldwell

Novelist Laura Caldwell is on the red hot carpet to becoming a
household name. By the time you read the Izzy McNeil
series (RED HOT LIES, RED BLOODED MURDER and RED, WHITE &
DEAD), Izzy McNeil has become a best friend, and Caldwell has
secured not one but three spaces on your bookshelves. Izzy is
remarkable. She remains strong amidst some scary situations, finds
her way with dignity and sass, and is open to the new adventures
life brings her way.

What do you get when you add a red-headed writer, a red-headed
heroine and a red-headed book reviewer? Three times hot is an
envious recipe for skyrocketing success. I have enjoyed my summer
getting to know Izzy through Caldwell’s talented passion for
writing. Three novels released in three consecutive summer months
is a hot idea, and it secures a place in literary circles for the
author that is unique.

Izzy finds herself jobless for the third time in a year and
rebounds by taking the opportunity to discover more about her
father’s death 22 years ago. A mystery surrounds the
helicopter crash that took his life. Izzy hopes to find some
answers by visiting her Aunt Elena in Rome. She takes Italy by
storm and soon learns that her heritage includes the Camorra, an
Italian organized crime syndicate, the very same one that she
investigates undercover for her friend John Mayburn, which leads to
her narrow escape from shady Dez Romano in a dark alley.

Caldwell’s beautifully penned room-by-room and
street-by-street descriptions of Rome’s architecture draw the
reader through rooms “trimmed in gold and laden with
paintings, many of them landscapes of Rome…” She
captures the essence I felt of discovering the Trevi Fountain for
the first time: “I gasped at the sight of the Trevi Fountain.
Tucked in an otherwise average and small piazza…” She
seduces us with the sights, sounds and tastes of Italy: “A
sultry feeling hung in the air --- heavy and salty. People strolled
along the sidewalks that wrapped around the sea. Across the street,
the cafes near the sailboats were bright and hopping.”

Izzy’s best friend Maggie is a godsend, joining her in
Rome for moral support and to celebrate her 30th birthday. Maggie
needs an escape from a bad relationship, one she tried to make work
twice, and treating Izzy to more luxurious accommodations in Rome
is a perfect way to begin anew. Leaving past lovers behind is never
easy, but a Roman holiday can lead to love as Audrey Hepburn
experienced in Roman Holiday (1953). On a train ride to
Napoli, life gives Maggie one of those little surprises we all
enjoy at one time or another --- the thrill of meeting someone new.
Bernard is a classical musician who is instantly
“bedazzled” with Maggie and makes her believe in love
again.

Izzy’s love life is a rollercoaster that induces her to
realize she reluctantly has to let go of former fiancé Sam.
Solid relationships involve men who are there for you no matter
what, who experience the highs and lows of life with strength and
who make you feel like you are a goddess. Theo entered Izzy’s
life in RED BLOODED MURDER, and despite his much younger age, he
plays a significant part in Izzy’s transition to the next
phase of her life. Leave it to a best friend to state very
eloquently, ‘“I was thinking,’ Maggie said,
‘that you’re starting your life over right now, you
know? So in a way you’re repotting yourself. And I know
you’re going to flourish.”’

Being an astute former lawyer, Izzy’s investigation leads
her to believe her father’s death was faked. Maggie and Izzy
travel to the Gardens of Poseidon in Ischia, a Mediterranean island
off the coast of Napoli, in search of Aunt Elena and more answers.
A secluded rendezvous spot in the gardens gives Caldwell the
opportunity to indulge our fantasies with romance and a sizzling
sexual chemistry between Theo and Izzy. Caldwell expertly shows us
how some relationships heal instead of destroy. As Izzy gets closer
to the truth, the Camorra is hot on her trail, leaving a dead body
as a warning, and forcing Aunt Elena to reveal some family secrets
and skeletons. We learn through Izzy’s adventures the
importance of looking behind the façades of people and
situations to identify the realities. Her family is reunited, but
the future is left open as it is in reality.

We come away with a renewed value for friendship, family,
life’s unexpected adventures, making decisions, moving on,
settling down, seeking our own passions and realizing that while we
go with the flow, we can also shape the flow of our lives and
loves. Izzy follows her instincts about Theo (“There’s
just something about him”). She explored behind the
façade and found the masterpiece.

Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 23, 2011

Red, White & Dead: An Izzy McNeil Novel
by Laura Caldwell

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Mira Books
  • ISBN-10: 0778326667
  • ISBN-13: 9780778326663