Friday, January 20, 2012

Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red (Jacqueline T. Lynch)

Overall: 3.3
  • Plot: 3.5/5
  • Originality: 4/5
  • Language: 3/5
  • Believability: 3.2/5
Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red by Jacqueline T. Lynch

A “cozy” post-World War II mystery about a museum heist, a missing child, a murder, and the partnership of a recent ex-con and an even more recent widow.

In Hartford, Connecticut, 1949, Juliet Van Allen, a museum administrator, returns home from work early to find her artist husband having an affair with another woman. Juliet slips unseen back to her office, where she meets an intruder. Elmer Vartanian, recently released from prison for a museum robbery, is coerced into helping scout the museum for a heist by a gang that has kidnapped his daughter. Since Juliet left her apartment, her husband has been murdered. She is the prime suspect, and Elmer is her only alibi.

Juliet, the rebellious only daughter of a wealthy financier, and Elmer, a lower-class ex-convict who has educated himself in prison, learn to rely on each other. Juliet is Elmer’s guide to a post-world that has changed so much since he entered prison. He feels guilty for having missed his daughter’s childhood, for being safe when friends were killed in World War II, and is bewildered over atomic energy, Modern Art, ballpoint pens, and frozen orange juice concentrate.

Juliet is not sure she believes Elmer’s story. Elmer is not sure she didn’t kill her husband. They are compelled to work together, dogged by the scandal-monger newsman, the shrewd police detective, and scrutinized by the even more judgmental eye of Hartford’s elite in world where Modern Art meets old-fashioned murder.
Genre: General Fiction
Purchase Links:
Kindle US | UK
Other Links:
author website

All Juliet van Allen, aka Mrs. McLeod, wanted to do was go home early to make love with her husband. Instead, she wound up with a dead, adulterous spouse, an ex convict as her new chauffeur, strange men climbing through her ventilation system, and a detective convinced that she's a murderess. To top it off, most of the happenings are printed in the paper each day, courtesy of an ethically-unbound reporter. Simmer, stir, and let the plot thicken.

Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red sets up a deceptively simple scenario: a murder, a museum heist, and the intersection of two very disparate lives. It is this overlap, however, that brings the story to life and lends it more interest than a relatively rudimentary whodunnit might warrant. As a heroine, Juliet successfully blends "damsel in distress" with "independent businesswoman," sidestepping the wealthy heiress trope that could easily have flattened her into a caricature of a character. Even more enjoyable, however, is the way in which Elmer Vartanian is fleshed out. He is neither brash knight nor tortured hero; rather, he comes across as a decent man trying to piece together a good life for his family. His attempts to find his daughter and circumvent the fate laid before him were what kept me turning pages (or flipping Kindle screens, as it were).

The pacing of the writing in this novel is a comfortable combination of action and conversation, with just enough detail to set the mood or to present an obvious, albeit effective, metaphor. Various bits of history, specifically art history, stimulate the reader's mind and lend some credibility to Juliet's position as museum curator. In short, as a vehicle for storytelling, it does quite well for itself. Unfortunately, the second half of the book contains a multitude of typographical and grammatical errors that detract from the overall experience of catching killers and thwarting nefarious plots. Further editing is warranted.

Story-wise, Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red is a fairly neat package from beginning to end. For those looking for a relatively quick read, that may work out just fine. Personally, I would have preferred a lengthier story, perhaps with more red herrings and meaningful interactions with the appropriately named Rattinger; the search for Kurt's killer was far more straightforward than I'd imagined. From what I can tell, however, the murder mystery was not intended to take center stage in this book; if anything, it's a convenient backdrop for both Juliet and Elmer to widen their horizons.

(Review copy provided by the author)


DorianTB said...

Having followed Jacqueline T. Lynch's excellent blog posts on ANOTHER OLD MOVIE BLOG (, I was very interested in reading her novels, and so far I'm enjoying CADMIUM YELLOW, BLOOD RED quite a lot! I look forward to reading more of CADMIUM YELLOW, BLOOD RED as well as Ms. Lynch's other fiction.

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