Are you thinking about picking up Claim of Innocence, the latest Izzy McNeil novel by Laura Caldwell, but aren't up to date with the characters in the series? No worries — the author has written up a "cheat sheet" on Izzy and her crew along with some never before revealed secrets about the characters. Also, Caldwell's agent, Amy Moore-Benson, weighs in on what she loves about the series. And after meeting the characters, don't miss your chance to win a copy of Claim of Innocence.
IZZY McNEIL - Izzy is a sexy, smart, redheaded Chicago lawyer who moonlights as a private detective after her fiancé disappears and her client is killed. She adores her family members, has a penchant for old Chicago dive bars and is constantly trying to stop swearing ("I think it sounds crass when other people swear. The problem is I think it sounds great when I do it.")
Here's what they say about her: "Izzy is paving the way for modern women to rise to the occasion, adorned in red stilettos, Merlot in hand, navigating a sea of men." (BookReporter.com)
"Izzy continues on each of her journeys, trying to balance real life and its mundane problems with the fantastic turns fate can take." (The Examiner, naming Izzy McNeil the "Top Series of 2009").
Author's Insider Information - Izzy shoplifted once in college as part of a sorority pledging ritual. It upset her so much she returned the item, quit the sorority and shopped only at that store for the rest of her college career.
The Agent Weighs In - The thing I immediately liked about Izzy is that she is, quite simply, someone you want to know. You wish she was your neighbor, your colleague, your friend. (She also bears a striking resemblance to my client, Laura Caldwell, who happens to be a redheaded lawyer and also happens to be my colleague and friend).
SAM HOLLINGS – Izzy’s fiancé, he's a financial adviser at the wealth management firm. He has martini-olive eyes that immediately made Izzy want to disappear into them forever. He's always been a solid guy, the one who wanted the wedding more than she did, but if that's true, why did he disappear a month before their nuptials?
Author's Insider Information - Sam wishes he could be near his sisters and mom in the San Francisco Bay area. But the truth is, he fears that if he moves there, he’ll somehow become like his mean drunk of a father, a man he loves deeply and despises just as much.
The Agent Weighs In - Sam is deceptively complex. He seems like a perfect fiancé and great husband material but he has a terrifying ability to keep secrets. This kind of character opens up a ton of possibilities in a series.
MAGGIE BRISTOL - Izzy’s best friend. She is spitfire-short with light brown, wavy hair. She is a criminal defense lawyer known for representing alleged drug runners and mobsters. Her grandfather, Martin Bristol, was a famous Chicago Assistant State’s Attorney. Maggie's large family from the South Side are as thick as the thieves they represent. They spend most of their free time together and know everything about each other. Izzy feels fortunate to be, in some ways, a part of their family.
Author's Insider Information - Maggie is the friend to whom you ask the hard questions, whether it’s What do you think about this dress? Or What do you think I should do with my life? She’ll always give you her straight-up honest answer, but doesn’t get attached to whether or not you take her advice.
The Agent Weighs In - Maggie is the perfect foil to Izzy’s propensity to fly-by-the-seat of her pants. Maggie is measured when Izzy is impulsive. She relies more common sense when Izzy relies on instinct. And she is the introduction for Izzy to the eye-opening, big-wide criminal defense world in Chicago.
VICTORIA McNEIL - Izzy's melancholic but beautiful and kind mother. Victoria never truly regained herself after Izzy's father died two decades before. She's remarried to the wonderful Spence and runs the Victoria Project, which helps widowed women with children.
Author's Insider Information - I love writing Victoria. She is a woman unafraid of her own moods, unafraid to be sad and unhappy. Her ability to own her melancholy fascinates me. And yet in Claim of Innocence, she’s coming out of that state and it’s wondrous to follow her as she does that.
The Agent Weighs In - What draws me to Victoria is that she isn’t your typical mother. Not overly maternal, her relationship with her daughter poses problems but ultimately provides Izzy with a safe haven.
CHARLIE McNEIL – Izzy's younger brother. For years he was unemployed and lived off an insurance settlement, spending most of his days napping, drinking red wine, and reading, hence his nickname, “Sheets.” Now, Charlie has gotten into the radio world and loves it.
Author's Insider Info - It is pure joy to write Charlie, because he’s one of those people who aren’t easily ruffled, he doesn’t take things personally, and he really wants the best for everyone.
The Agent Weighs In - One of the strengths I see in the series is that Izzy’s world is not only fully developed upon the initial book, but continues to grow as her relationships do, just like in real life. This kind of character expansion is what editors look for—they want characters that are interesting, yes, but also ones that offer possibilities for intensification.
JOHN MAYBURN – A sought after Chicago PI often hired by Izzy’s firm. Izzy wears him down about helping her find her fiancé and so he makes her a deal: she freelances for him when he needs a North-side Chicago woman type to do surveillance and he'll help her out. Little does Izzy know that her part-time gig with Mayburn will get her into lots of full time trouble.
Author's Insider Information - John Mayburn is a sarcastic, hard-edge dude, but he’s in love with love. His ex-girlfriend, who he calls The Saga, has plagued him for years until he met Lucy DeSanto on a case he and Izzy works on. And now the devotion he feels to her has opened him up even more.
The Agent Weighs In - Mayburn is so interesting crafted that he poses more questions than he answers. Perhaps he deserves a series of his own?
GIVEAWAY ALERT: Six lucky winners will each receive a copy of this new suspense tale. To enter tell us which of these characters you can't wait to read more about. Or email your comment here with your US mailing address and the subject line “Laura Caldwell's Claim of Innocence Giveaway.” Winners will be announced on December 2.