By Rachel Howzell Hall
If anyone understands the drive to go missing it’s Grayson Sykes.
It gives her plenty of skepticism as she listens to the handsome Dr. Ian O’Donnell talk about the disappearance of his girlfriend Isabel Lincoln two months earlier. Isabel took his dog and that bothers the good doctor more than the missing girlfriend.
Finding Isabel is Grayson’s first assignment as an investigator for Rader Consulting. But being Grayson, with her own history of escaping a toxic relationship, she has no intention of bringing Isabel back if it puts her in danger.
“Because the truth was this: every nine seconds, a woman was battered in America. Over ten thousand women were killed by their current or ex-partners every year . . . and there was not enough money in Warren Buffett’s bank account to compel Gray to contribute to those statistics.”
But the more she checks out Isabel, the more oddities appear. A woman claiming to be Isabel’s best friend, Tea Christopher, shows up and claims that Isabel is alive and well and doesn’t want to go back to O’Donnell. Isabel will only communicate with Gray through Tea and doesn’t provide all the requested proofs that she’s alive and well. In fact, the photos she does provide have clearly been photoshopped.
In Isabel’s home there is mail for someone named Elyse Miller. An insurance investigator shows up investigating a series of claims for car accidents and stolen cars that Isabel has made. And there are life insurance policies naming Tea as beneficiary. In Isabel’s condo, Gray finds boxes of hair dye and a memo pad with flight numbers on it.
As she searches for Isabel, Gray realizes that her own abusive, former husband, Sean, has found her and plans to force her back into his life.
With her usual brilliance, Rachel Howzell Hall has written a spell-binding story with multiple mysteries entwined. Is Isabel victim — or perpetrator? Who is Elyse Miller? Why is Tea involved in Isabel’s affairs? How did Grayson’s former husband find her — despite a change of identity and residence? Will she have to resort to murder to escape him?
As with many of Hall’s stories, this one takes place mainly in Los Angeles. Hall’s ability to create a setting is so spot-on you can smell the exhaust and feel the frustration of waiting in traffic on the 405 freeway.
About the Author: Rachel Howzell Hall
Rachel Howzell Hall grew up in what is now known as Baldwin Village in Los Angeles, an area of postwar apartments that served as the setting for her Detective Eloise “Lou” Norton series.
The daughter of a preschool teacher and a warehouse supervisor, Hall’s decision to study English and American literature at the University of California Santa Cruz surprised no one.
Her first professional job was with PEN Center USA where she had a chance to meet many writers, and more importantly Black writers like Bebe Moore Campbell, Jervey Tervalon and Gary Phillips.
Hall’s evolution from writer to published author was star-crossed. Her first novel, A QUIET STORM, won critical praise for its humor, wisdom and self deprecation. But it came out on the first anniversary of 9/11, which eclipsed any attention the book normally might have received.
She wrote about Black women who worked or were well-to-do. This didn’t fit the stereotype held by white publishers and white readers of what Black life in America was about. At the time, publishers were seeking stories about gangs, violence and drugs in the Black community. Even her agent dropped her.
She continued to write as she gave birth to a daughter and survived two cancer diagnoses.
She wrote a series featuring Lou Norton, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Her first standalone novel was THEY ALL FALL DOWN, a riff on Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.