Land of Shadows

By Rachel Howzell Hall

There’s nothing quite as delicious as discovering a new mystery series so good you want to devour the sequels immediately.

Meet Homicide Detective Elouise “Lou” Norton, working out of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Southwest Division. She joined the police department after graduating from law school at UCLA and getting tired of not passing the bar exam.

She had another reason for joining the police department: Her teenage sister, Victoria “Tori” Starr, vanished in 1988 after being caught shoplifting at a liquor store owned by Napoleon Crase. Tori’s disappearance was never solved and nearly destroyed the lives of Lou and her mother. Crase went on to become wealthy by developing land in poor areas of the black community that first burned in the 1992 riots and then toppled in the 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994.

When Lou is called to an apparent suicide in a condo development under construction by Crase, her sister’s disappearance echoes in her mind. Lou realizes looking at the victim — a black girl, dressed in a cheerleader’s outfit, hands tied behind her back, strung up by a Gucci web belt in a closet of a $400,000 condo — that the girl was murdered.

This is a tale of big, glittering, celebrity-riddled L.A., where valedictorians from poor families can be dazzled by the goodies dangled by drug-dealing gang members, where beautiful young girls learn much too young what beauty and sex can be traded for, where the chance of work to support a demanding family can be paid for with compromised integrity.

This is a wonderful introduction to a series. The back story is as good as the mystery Lou is solving. Lou comes from the same background as the victim and her friends. She made it out of the ghetto by hard work, including long hours as a patrol cop in some of the poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods of L.A. She’s good at what she does because she knows the community and she cares.

But she has her own baggage — a father who walked out on the family, an overworked mother, the devastation of her sister’s disappearance and an exciting, successful husband who repeatedly cheats on her. She has to clear her own baggage out of her mind to read the clues in front of her properly.

Land of Shadows was included on the Los Angeles Times‘ “Books to Read this Summer” in 2014.

The books in the Detective Elouise Norton series in order after Land of Shadows are:
  • Skies of Ash, included on the Los Angeles Times‘ “Books to Read This Summer” in 2015
  • Trail of Echoes, received a Kirkus Star and was listed as one of Kirkus Reviews’ “Books That Kept Us Up All Night.”
  • City of Saviors (2017)

The Author: Rachel Howzell Hall

Rachel Howzell Hall has written seven novels, including the critically acclaimed Detective Elouise Norton series. The character of Elouise Norton was included in The Guardian’s “Top 10 Female Detectives in Fiction.”
Hall is a featured writer on NPR’s “Crime in the City” series and the National Endowment for the Arts weekly podcast.  She has served as a mentor in AWP’s Writer to Writer Program and is a Director-at-Large for the Mystery Writers of America.

In addition to her Det. Elouise Norton series, Hall wrote the stand-alone novel A Quiet Storm, published in 2002.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

For more on Rachel Howzell Hall’s life as a writer, go here.


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