I’d like you to meet Elouise Norton. She’s an LAPD homicide detective stationed in the Southwest Division, an area that includes the fabled Jungle. You can call her Lou.
Most everybody does except for her mama, who calls her Lulu.
Lou is a success story. She came from poverty. Her father left when she was young. Her sister Victoria, called Tori, disappeared without a trace in 1988. But she’s married to Greg Norton, a highly successful commercial artist, and she’s a good cop.
Things aren’t all good though. Greg is in Tokyo, and he’s cheated on her once before, buying a Porsche Cayenne as an apology. Last time he strayed, the first sign was a bouquet of flowers. Now, after catching a murder case that has more than a little resemblance to her sister’s disappearance, Greg has sent her flowers again. On top of that, she’s saddled with a new partner, a white guy from Colorado Springs who’s never worked the bad side of any town, much less that bad side of LA.
So Lou decides to concentrate on the case. One Monique Darson has been found at the construction site of the new Crase Parc and Condominiums, hanging in the closet of the master bedroom in unit 1B. And whoever did the deed used a Gucci belt. She’s wearing a cheerleader uniform, and it’s made to look like a suicide, complete with a note on her iPhone. Problem is, her hands are tied, and that makes no sense for a suicide.
On top of that, the man who owns the Crase Parc and Condominium project is one Napoleon Crase, who owned Crase Liquor Emporium all those years ago—and what’s left of it is just a block down the street. Crase is known for his preference for young women and his habit of getting rough with them. Lou has suspected him as being the one responsible for Tori’s disappearance in 1988, as the store was the last place she saw her sister.
One of the things I truly appreciated about this novel is the author didn’t play the race card. Yes, Lou has had to contend with both racism and chauvinism during her rise in the department, but she’s overcome these things by being a good cop, not by crying “Affirmative Action” every time something goes wrong, In fact, at one point during this investigation, she tells another cop she doesn’t want an Al Sharpton showing up and playing the race card in this case.
The past makes itself known in this case as the similarities between Tori’s disappearance and Monique’s murder keep popping up. And witnesses who could help break the case keep ending up dead.
The voice Ms. Hall gives her protagonist is great. I’m a Southern white boy, and yet I could find myself identifying with this black woman from the bad side of one of the biggest cities in the world. Lou sometimes doesn’t know when to turn off her mouth or her anger, and this comes close to getting her in hot water more than once. But she’s a good person in a difficult situation, and not everything ends up happily ever after—but I won’t spoil the story for you any more than that.
Do yourself a favor: go out and pick up Land of Shadows. And if you’re like me and you love a well-written mystery that’s not cozy in any way, you’ll finish the book wishing there was already another Elouise Norton novel out there waiting to be read.
It’s that good.