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)