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LAND OF SHADOWS by Rachel Howzell Hall

lofshadowsLAND OF SHADOWS Rachel Howzell Hall June 2014 Forge Books   LAPD Detective Elouise Norton is a black female cop working in the same povery-stricken Central LA neighborhood she grew up in.  When she and her new partner Colin Taggert are called to the scene of a suicide, Norton immediately realizes something is suspicious.  Why would a young woman who already graduated high school be wearing her cheerleading outfit—unless someone asked her to?  And how could she have hung herself with her hands tied so tightly behind her back?  Norton’s suspicions are quickly confirmed—this apparent suicide is in fact a murder.  Norton also realizes the construction site where the girl’s body is found is owned by Napoleon Crase and his partners.  Perhaps not so coincidentally, Crase also owned the store where Norton’s older sister was last seen years earlier—before she disappeared forever.  Norton must make sure that she doesn’t bring old grudges to the table in her investigation—while at the same time hoping that she can find some answers about her sister’s disappearance, and perhaps get some long-awaited justice.  As Norton gets closer to finding answers, she also gets closer to the killer.  A killer who isn’t afraid to add Norton to the growing list of victims.   Elouise Norton is a fantastic protagonist.  She struggles with her past, trying not to let the tragedy of her sister’s disappearance overshadow not only her current investigation but also her sense of self.  Norton is also struggling with the impending loss of her marriage, since her husband can’t seem to stop his philandering ways.  Despite the personal turmoil, Norton keeps her cool throughout, pushing doggedly ahead in her investigation.  On the street her nickname is ‘Lockjaw,’ since once she grabs onto a case, she never lets go.  As a black female detective, Norton definitely came up against plenty of discrimination, but she worked twice as hard to get to where she is, and proves herself time and again as she seeks justice for the victims—justice her own family never got.   In an interesting twist, Hall pairs Norton with a new and incredibly green partner.  Colin Taggert is a transfer from Colorado—a 28-year-old white guy who had family connections and made detective after only a few years on patrol. Taggert spends a lot of time resenting the fact that he is subordinate to Norton, despite the fact that she has vastly more experience both on the job and in the neighborhood.  His arrogance and his lack of experience cause him to make a lot of mistakes—like eating before viewing a crime scene, or making a grieving family uncomfortable.  Instead of a partner Norton can rely on, she’s stuck with one she has to baby-sit, and this adds a fascinating dynamic to the story.   I found myself absolutely caught up not only in the riveting storyline, but also in the language, which was gritty, tough and absolutely authentic.  Hall did an outstanding job of capturing the feel of life as a cop—not only the sights and sounds of the streets, but also the slang and the gallows humor found in many a squad room.  If you are looking for a fast-moving and totally engaging book, add LAND OF SHADOWS to your summer reading list.