When readers fall in love with a character, it can be excruciating to have to wait a year (or more) for the next book in the series to be published—think of the crowds of people who flocked to stores at midnight to get the latest Harry Potter.
That might be one reason for the interesting back-to-back publication of three new mysteries by Laura Caldwell: June brought Red Hot Lies this month’s offering is Red Blooded Murder and Red, White & Dead will hit bookstores in August. So readers charmed by the series’ feisty, red-headed heroine, Izzy McNeil, won’t have to wait long for their next fix.
Izzy bears a definite resemblance to her creator: both she and Caldwell have red hair, law degrees and live in Chicago. And yes, feisty is applicable to both, too. Speaking by phone from her office at Loyola University’s School of Law, where she is a professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Caldwell’s pleasure in her character is evident, dubbing her “the younger, taller, hotter and cooler me!”
“I guess what you’re supposed to do in life is go minute to minute, and that’s kind of what I’ve been doing with Izzy. It just started clicking, and moving, and I loved the character, and I loved writing those books. I’m writing a nonfiction book right now [about her work with Loyola’s Life After Innocence Project], but I’m ready to go back and start on number four.”
Caldwell certainly puts Izzy in some real pickles. In the first book, Red Hot Lies, Izzy’s biggest client is murdered, her fiancé disappears with the deceased man’s money, and her employer suggests she take an “indefinite leave of absence.”
This “fresh start” scenario is a topic Caldwell herself finds intriguing, and she continues it in her next two books. Red Blooded Murder puts Izzy in a new career, working as a reporter for Trial TV until the brutal death of a colleague places her under suspicion for murder. And in Red, White & Dead, Izzy dashes off to Rome to search for a vital piece of her personal history . . . and escape some Mafiosi killers in the process.
Caldwell is fascinated by the myriad ways people regroup—or not—after the life they thought they knew gets yanked out from under them. “Unless you live in a hole, that happens to everyone throughout their life. Someone dies, you’re in a car accident, or someone breaks up with you, you lose a job; there are a million examples, and I’m always fascinated with how people respond. So that’s why Izzy, in the beginning of book one, everything she really identifies herself with gets pulled away from her. . . . It was fun to be along for the ride as an author.” While Caldwell has no intention of putting Izzy in the backseat, she has created characters in all three books she’d like to play a more prominent roles in future books.
“I really am hoping to have different characters step forward now. I want Maggie [Izzy’s best friend] to play a bigger part. I also think Izzy’s mom is a fascinating character and based on what happens in Red, White & Dead, she’s got a lot of stuff to deal with, too. . . . So what I’m hoping with this series would be that all these characters would be fleshed out enough that as one develops or changes, it does affect other people.”
One word of warning: Those captivated by Izzy McNeil in Red Hot Lies may want to ration out Red Blooded Murder and Red, White & Dead. After this series jump-start, it will be a year or more before the fourth book in the series is released. That kind of wait could have frustrated readers wishing they’d been a little more judicious and a little less greedy.
Rebecca Bain writes from her home in Nashville.