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Skies of Ash: A Detective Elouise Norton…
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Skies of Ash: A Detective Elouise Norton Novel

by Rachel Howzell Hall

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For those that enjoy Michael Connelly and the Harry Bosch books, the Elouise Norton series would most likely interest you.

In some ways the two series are similar, but in other ways vastly different. Of course, Rachel Howzell Hall tells her stories through the eyes of her created black, female detective and to suggest the writing of Rachel Howzell Hall as an imitation to Michael Connelly is not the intent of this review - it is instead to point out how enjoyable her writing is and with just two books featuring Elouise Norton. It is also to point out the promise this series has in store for the future.

In the second novel involving these characters, Elousie Norton and her partner are investigating a house fire that has claimed the lives of a mother and her two children. Is it murder or a terrible accident? The story unfolds involving a number of characters that are chameleon-like in their nature and may or may not be what they profess to be.

Through the investigation, Hall also uses the flaws of her main character to be sprinkled through the story to allow the reader to accept Norton is human and not the typical fictional character made of steel.

While reading these novels, my mental image of the two main characters are those of the actors Michael Hyatt (she played Avon Barksdale's sister Brianna in HBO's The Wire) and Chris Evans (Captain America). Through the novels, Norton and her partner Colin Taggert, a green, hyper-sexualized, white male, show growth in their working relationship, which involves a sprinkle of sexual tension thrown in. Though readers my hope for some sort of physical relationship, I'm hoping future novels avoid that. To me, it's more enjoyable reading how their relationship is developing.

I highly recommend this series to those that enjoy police procedurals and to enjoy the road ahead with this author.

( )
  EricEllis | Sep 2, 2017 |
Rachel Howzell Hall's 'Skies of Ash' is a competent followup to 'Land of Shadows', again starring LA detectives Elouise 'Lou' Norton and Colin Taggert, her junior partner. The plot is interesting- a fire where a woman and her 2 children die has enough curious aspects to point the detectives toward murder. Over the course of 6 days the mystery is solved. Sounds simple, but it's not.

Detective Norton, though the 'star' of the series, isn't a particularly likable character. She's talented (just ask her!), arrogant, combative, dismissive of most of her fellow law enforcement personnel, and seemingly incapable of keeping her sexuality separated from her work. There does seem to be a little growth in the Taggert character in that he's a bit more mature than in the first book but still on the goofy side. As a team, they really aren't a team- Taggert bugs Norton because he's not from LA, not 'street' enough, has the audacity to speak his mind on occasion, and sometimes says the wrong thing at the wrong time. I'm not sure how many subsequent novels are in this series, or if I'll even read them, but one hopes that the Norton character at some point realizes she can be even more effective by supporting the people who are trying to help her.

In general, the writing is decent and the dialogue is very good. The plot at a high level is good, but the sheer amount of ground covered over the course of 6 days, and the immediate focus on motive as opposed to forensics and basic blocking and tackling (which, once they got around to it, clarified the time line) seemed unrealistic. The resolution of the mystery surrounding the fire made sense, it's just that I don't think it could've happened as quickly as it did, nor did I feel the behavior of the various characters in the neighborhood and family friends was reasonable.

All-in-all, it's a readable novel with a good story starring an imperfect protagonist that progresses implausibly toward a satisfying conclusion. Not sure that makes sense, but that's how it felt to me. ( )
  gmmartz | Jun 21, 2016 |
Lou is a detective in Los Angeles. She is investigating an arson/murder. This is a basic detective crime novel. However, it was entertaining. I hadn't read the others in the series, but that didn't interfere with understanding or enjoying this one. If I come across others, I'll probably read them. ( )
  catzteach | Jul 26, 2015 |
Here's a detective to follow - an African American woman in LA, well respected by her co-workers and the brass, and this time she's caught quite an interesting case. When a Baldwin Hills home is set on fire and a mother and two children are killed, Elouise "Lou" Norton and her obnoxious loverboy white newbie partner get caught up in the mysteries of a heartland of the black bourgeoisie.

Snappy dialogue, great characters, Lou's funny quirks (everything she smells puts her off), and dangling ends of a not-quite-neatly-wrapped-up investigation make for a really enjoyable read, full of suspense and people you'd want to know. ( )
  froxgirl | Jul 13, 2015 |
Detective Elouise ("Lou") Norton investigates a fatal house fire in Los Angeles which raises her suspicions, coloured by her coping with a difficult personal life, in the form of a husband who is a serial adulterer. Very strongly drawn characters, clever plot, vibrant dialogue and real Los Angeles locations all add up to an excellent read. ( )
  edwardsgt | Jun 6, 2015 |
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"Los Angeles homicide detective Elouise "Lou" Norton and her partner, Colin Taggert, arrive at the scene of a tragic house fire. Juliet Chatman perished in the blaze, along with her two children. Left behind is grieving husband and father Christopher Chatman, hospitalized after trying to rescue his family. Chatman is devastated that he couldn't save them. Unless, of course, he's the one who killed them. Neighbors and family friends insist the Chatmans were living the dream. But Lou quickly discovers the reality was very different. The flames of adultery, jealousy, scandal, fraud, and disease had all but consumed the Chatmans' marriage before it went up in smoke. Lou's own marriage hangs by a thread. Soured by the men in her life, Lou is convinced that Chatman started the fire. Her colleagues worry that her personal issues are obscuring her judgment. With very little evidence regarding the fire--and rising doubts about her husband's commitment to monogamy--Lou feels played by all sides. Was the fire sparked by a serial arsonist known as The Burning Man? Or by the Chatmans' son, who regularly burned his father's property? Searching for justice through the ashes of a picture-perfect family, Lou doesn't know if she will catch an arsonist or be burned in the process. Skies of Ash is another thrilling read from author-to-watch Rachel Howzell Hall"--… (more)

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