Skies of Ash: A Detective Elouise Norton Novel

Forge. May 2015. 336p. ISBN 9780765336361. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466828827. M
Still reeling from the emotional discovery of her sister Victoria's long-buried remains and unmasking her killer in 2014's Land of Shadows, LAPD Det. Elouise "Lou" Norton welcomes the distraction of a big case. She gets that and more when a house fire kills Juliet Chatman and her two children, 12-year-old Cody and eight-year-old Chloe. Husband Christopher, allegedly at work during the early morning blaze, arrives home as firefighters try to extinguish the flames and must be physically restrained. Lou immediately suspects Christopher, though her new partner, Colin Taggart, argues that there's little evidence to support her theory. As Lou peels back the layers of the Chatmans' seemingly perfect life, the veneer of happiness quickly falls away: financial woes loomed large; Juliet was miserable, possibly even suicidal; and Cody had a penchant for bullying and setting fires. Most of the Chatmans' friends staunchly believe the fire was an accident, but Lou knows in her bones it was murder.
VERDICT The genre needs more strong, black female heroines like Lou, and even when the plot slides into soap-opera territory in places, Hall's take-no-prisoners lead keeps readers on their toes. This is a woman you'd want on your side.
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