From the Publisher
"Lou . . . is a formidable fighter--someone you want on your side." --New York Times Book Review
"A fresh voice in crime fiction." --Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author
"Hall..has a true gift.”Crimespree Magazine
“Another smart LA procedural…this determined African American protagonist makes a wonderful addition to the genre.”--Booklist on Trail of Echoes
“Hall outdoes her stellar debut in an exploration of vile secrets that pays homage to that earlier master of complex California homicide, Raymond Chandler.”Kirkus Reviews on Skies of Ash
“Rachel Howzell has written another riveting thriller starring her favorite (and mine!) female sleuth, the fabulous when furious and even better when behaving Lou Norton…one of the summer's best.”Huffington Post on Skies of Ash
"A racially explosive Los Angeles provides the backdrop for this exceptional crime novel...Dead-on dialogue and atmospheric details help propel a tale full of tormenting moral issues. Lou, a brave lady in a brave book, does the best she can." Publishers Weekly, starred review on Land of Shadows
A racially explosive Los Angeles provides the backdrop for this exceptional crime novel from Hall (A Quiet Storm). Elouise “Lou” Norton, an LAPD homicide detective known on the street as “Lockjaw,” has solved 90% of the cases she’s led. She’s a smart, sassy black woman, “sweet as apple pie... laced with arsenic and rusty razor blades,” bedeviled by the 25-year-old disappearance of her sister, Tori, and torn asunder emotionally by her straying husband, Greg. Lou is also saddled with a brash newbie partner, Colin Taggert, in a case involving a murdered Jane Doe that Lou suspects is tied to her sister’s fate. Dead-on dialogue and atmospheric details help propel a tale full of tormenting moral issues. If the bad grow so close to the good, how do the cops weed them out? And how do we right all these wrongs? Lou, a brave lady in a brave book, does the best she can. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (June)
Lou Norton's life changed irrevocably the day her older sister went missing from their Los Angeles ghetto neighborhood. Decades have passed, but Norton, now a homicide detective with the LAPD, is still haunted by and fixated on the unsolved crime. When Lou is called to her old neighborhood to investigate the death of a young girl, she becomes convinced that the crime was committed by the same person who took her sister so long ago. Grappling with searing memories of her childhood, as well as dealing with her charming yet cheating spouse, Lou confronts the realities of her past along with her present. Hall's (A Quiet Storm) promising series debut introduces a black, female lead in the male-dominated world of the LAPD. The author has fun playing with stereotypes and has developed a strong and likable protagonist. The story shines during Lou's flashbacks to her childhood, which are filled with heart-wrenching memories that make the wisecracking detective more accessible. However, the chapters narrated by the killer slow the momentum and create some bumpy transitions. VERDICT Recommended for libraries with a strong following for police procedurals and a welcome addition for collections seeking more diverse characters in the mystery genre. [Previewed in Kristi Chadwick's "Pushing Boundaries" feature, LJ 4/15/13.]—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI
An African-American LAPD detective's approach to a murder case is filtered through the experiences of her own early life.Elouise "Lou" Norton grew up in a tough section of Los Angeles. How tough? Her sister Tori was most likely a murder victim 30 years ago, though her body was never found. Now Lou is married to a wealthy man who cheated on her in the past and who's at it again during a business trip to Japan. When Monique Dowler, a young African-American girl, is found hanging in a closet in an unfinished condo complex, Lou's new partner, Colin Taggert—a white cop who recently moved from Colorado to escape a bad relationship—thinks she killed herself, but Lou has an excellent reason to disagree. The man who's building the complex over community objections is Napoleon Crase, whom she suspects of having murdered Tori. Monique was no innocent. Her many boyfriends included a minister's son and a gangbanger. Once the coroner confirms that her death was murder, Lou and Colin have plenty of suspects to consider. They're disturbed that Monique was found wearing her cheerleading outfit even though she'd recently graduated from high school and had been accepted at a local college. They discover that Monique and her older sister both drove expensive cars and wore designer clothes their family could hardly have afforded. When Lou goes back to her childhood streets to investigate, she must walk a fine line between past and present.This first procedural from Hall (A Quiet Storm, 2002, etc.) combines a conflicted, gutsy heroine and a complex, many-layered mystery.
Read an Excerpt
Two hundred and six bones make up the adult human skeleton.
And on a Wednesday night in June, I was perfecting my hammer fist, an efficient strike that could break at least four of those bones.
Fifteen minutes into my Krav Maga class, the bell tower rang—a ring tone chosen for Lieutenant Zak Rodriguez. And even though I was hammer fisting; even though, a yard away, my friend Lena was flirting with Avarim as he taught her how to break from a choke hold; even though I was off duty and needed this workout and was observing the tradition known as “having a personal life”—duty called.
For whom the bell tolled.
Elouise Norton, LAPD Homicide Detective, Southwest Division.
I excused myself from my trainer, Seth, and padded over to the mirrored wall. I scrutinized my abs, a part of my body that rarely saw the sun and was always hidden beneath silk shirts and six pounds of Kevlar. Not to brag, but my belly looked awesome in this light.
I grabbed my iPhone and towel from the floor and glanced at the phone’s picture of a middle-aged Latino with smoke-colored eyes and a Clark Gable mustache.
And the bell tolled again.
I took a deep breath, then said, “Lou here.”
“You’re not answering your radio,” Lieutenant Rodriguez shouted. Sirens blared in the background.
“Because it’s in the car.”
“And why aren’t you in the car?”
“Because I’m on the Westside, getting in some exercise.”
Lena, also getting in some “exercise,” was now sticking her ass into Avarim’s crotch and cooing, “Like this? Like this?” Newly divorced, Lena was tiny and dazzling. More than that, she could filet men like a hungry grizzly could filet salmon.
I swiped the towel across my sweaty forehead. “What’s up, LT?”
“A Jane Doe hanging in a closet.”
Unimpressed, I lifted my left knee to my chest and held it for two seconds. “Oh, yeah?”
In this city, Jane Does were always found hanging around. In closets, off bridges, in shower stalls …
“Yeah. A security guard found her in one of those condos over on Santa Rosalia near the Jungle, the ones still under construction. You know ’em, right?”
I had started to lift my right knee but froze. My grip tightened around the phone because yeah, I knew Santa Rosalia, and yeah, I knew the Jungle. From age three and on to my eighteenth birthday, I had lived in that part of black Los Angeles. Worse, my big sister, Victoria, had been snatched off those streets, never to be seen again. I hated the Jungle, and yet I had never left.
“From what the first officer told me,” Lieutenant Rodriguez was saying, “she’s pretty ripe, more than five hours old, and … Hey, you there?”
I stifled a sigh. “Yep. I’m … good.” But his words must have spooked me—Lena had abandoned sexy Avarim to come stand beside me. Big brown eyes wide with worry, she touched my wrist and whispered, “You okay?”
I nodded, even though, no, I wasn’t okay, not entirely. “I don’t understand,” I said to my boss. “Why am I catching this? Last time I scanned the board, there were blank spaces by Guerrero’s and Dolby’s names.”
“First,” he said, “you know the people in that area better than Guerrero and Dolby, so it won’t take thirty years for you to figure out your ass from your elbow. Second: Guerrero and Dolby are on everybody’s shit list for screwing up that Sizzler robbery, and this Jane Doe in a closet could be something, and I really don’t wanna read in the Times that two Southwest Division dicks forgot to fingerprint the scene. I swear those two are SOS.”
He paused, then added, “I know you have two cases simmering right now, but you know and I know that our clearance rate is shit right now. I need the A-Team on this.”
“One more question,” I said. “May I ask why you’re heading out to a suicide? Not that I don’t enjoy your company.”
“Again: she’s on Napoleon Crase’s property. That worries me.”
Yeah. That worried me, too.
“I just want everything done right,” he said. “I already called Taggert and he’s en route to the scene. He’s an ass, but he’s now your ass, so be nice to him, all right?”
“I’m always nice,” I said with a smirk.
He chuckled. “Oh, yeah. You’re a black Marie Osmond. Meet you over there.”
Copyright © 2014 by Rachel Howzell Hall