Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall

Land of Shadows

Along the ever-changing border of gentrifying Los Angeles, a seventeen-year-old girl is found dead at a construction site, hanging in the closet of an unfinished condominium. Homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton’s new partner Colin Taggert, fresh from the Colorado Springs police department, assumes it’s a teenage suicide. Lou isn’t buying the easy explanation. For one t...

Title:Land of Shadows
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0765336359
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:317 pages

Land of Shadows Reviews

  • James Thane

    Twenty-five years ago, Elouise Norton's older sister, Tori, was caught stealing candy from a neighborhood store owned by a man named Napoleon Crase. In a panic, Elouise ran from the store and never saw her sister again. The police conducted a perfunctory investigation but never discovered what might have happened to Tori.

    Perhaps the investigation was so slipshod because the cops were lazy or perhaps because they were overburdened. Perhaps it was because the victim, Tori, was a black teenager who

    Twenty-five years ago, Elouise Norton's older sister, Tori, was caught stealing candy from a neighborhood store owned by a man named Napoleon Crase. In a panic, Elouise ran from the store and never saw her sister again. The police conducted a perfunctory investigation but never discovered what might have happened to Tori.

    Perhaps the investigation was so slipshod because the cops were lazy or perhaps because they were overburdened. Perhaps it was because the victim, Tori, was a black teenager who did not have a sterling reputation to begin with. But whatever the case, a quarter of a century later, Elouise remains haunted by the loss of her sister and has become a homicide detective herself, having promised her mother that she would yet bring Tori home.

    Elouise (Lou) and her newbie white male partner are called to the scene of a condominium construction site, where a seventeen-year-old girl named Monique Dawson has been found hanging in a closet. Lou's new partner, Colin Taggert, jumps to the conclusion that the dead girl was a suicide, but Lou quickly disabuses him of that notion and insists, correctly, that Monique is the victim of a homicide.

    Interestingly, the condo development project is owned by Napoleon Crase who, in the years since Tori's disappearance, has pulled himself up by the bootstraps to become a millionaire developer, and the site of the project is very near the site of the store where Tori disappeared.

    Inevitably, these coincidences will weigh on Lou, but will they compromise her ability to conduct a full and fair investigation into the death of Monique Dawson? And as if she doesn't have enough on her mind to begin with, Lou's husband, a game developer, is in Japan. He's calling Lou infrequently and is generally staying out of touch. Lou wonders if he's cheating; if so, it wouldn't be the first time. The last time Lou caught him, he "apologized" by buying her a $90,000 Porsche SUV, but that may not be enough if he's straying again.

    Lou pursues the case, which takes a variety of twists and turns and involves some pretty sleazy characters. But she's a detective driven by the need to know the truth and she pursues it with a grim determination. She's a new and original character, and Rachel Howzell Hall introduces her in a very compelling story. Hall also creates a very convincing and intriguing setting in an area of south L.A. that's undergoing a black gentrification, and the end result is a book that will appeal to large numbers of crime fiction readers. I'm looking forward eagerly to Lou's next case.

  • Tina

    I feel like this book was written especially for me. Like, I sat with the author and gave her a checklist of stuff I was thirsty for in a good police procedural. Stuff like:

    1. I want the main character to be an African American woman

    2. I want her to be smart and tough

    3. I also want her to be funny and have an irreverent sense of humor

    4. I want her to have the best, best girlfriends who will come to her house with wine and barbecue give her come to Jesus talks when she needs it

    5. I want her to be

    I feel like this book was written especially for me. Like, I sat with the author and gave her a checklist of stuff I was thirsty for in a good police procedural. Stuff like:

    1. I want the main character to be an African American woman

    2. I want her to be smart and tough

    3. I also want her to be funny and have an irreverent sense of humor

    4. I want her to have the best, best girlfriends who will come to her house with wine and barbecue give her come to Jesus talks when she needs it

    5. I want her to be competent in her job, so much so that she is valued by her boss and peers

    6. I don't her to be perfect though, give her some flaws that make me roll my eyes a time or two, but still with enough self awareness that she knows she has these flaws

    7. I want her to have a well rounded inner life

    8. I want her to kick ass when necessary

    9. Give me all that with good writing, a good sink-your teeth in crime, excellent side characters, dead-on dialogue that make me wince, guffaw and nod my head in recognition, and give me space to admire a well crafted scene and a turn of phrase.

    In this story Elouise --aka Lou -- Norton is a Homicide detective in Los Angeles. She grew up in the hood but went to college and then law school and married very well to take herself out of the hood. But no matter how high you fly you don't ever really disconnect from your roots. In her case Lou is assigned to the Southwest Division of the LAPD that keeps her still within spitting distance of the place she grew up. And the case she catches in this book hits a little close because the circumstances of the death of a pretty, young African American teenager eerily mirrors the disappearance of her own teen aged sister, in the same area, some twenty-five years ago.

    My favorite thing about this book -- beyond the great characterization of Lou -- is the dialogue and the writing. It is written from Lou's first person perspective and her voice is so vibrant and interesting and funny. She is a sharp observer, peppering her perceptions with sometimes hilarious, sometimes stinging commentaries.

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    The dialogue is also spot on. This is the type of dialogue that sounds 100% authentic. There is this great scene of Lou questioning a gang-banger in the matter of his girlfriend's death and their back and forth is electric. The one scene of conversation made the young banger sound tough, smart, vulnerable, wise, and hurting. But all spoken with the LA streetwise argot that young men would use. This is compared to scenes of Lou and her best girlfriends, all well-to-do, Louboutin wearing, black professional bourgie women who speak that specific language of the black bourgie women.

    I also enjoyed the characterization of Colin, Lou's fresh from Colorado partner. A youngish white guy who on the one hand does some cringingly awkward things, but on the other hand begins to learn and grow in his partnership with Lou. The Colin at the end of the book was different than the Colin at the beginning of the book.

    The police procedural/crime aspects of the story was well laid out. I did get a little exasperated over a few things that come straight out of fiction conventions 101. For instance, a key piece of information by a witness could have been relayed earlier and broke open the entire case. But I can't get too mad at it, the book takes place in just about a four-day span and people IRL often work against their own best interests.

    Also Lou's personal life is a broke down mess. I loved her girlfriend intervention and wishes she would take their advise already. But baby steps.

    And finally, I have never been to LA. But the author has included so much detail about Lou's corner of LA here, that it is practically another character.

    So yeah, i enjoyed the heck out of this book from almost page one. About to go inhale the second one.

  • Autumn Crum

    The author has a way with words. Colorfully painting a picture with words. I loved Lulu and am glad she got her closure


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