Thursday, May 26, 2016

L.A. Homicide Detective Lou Norton Returns in Another Very Good Outing

L.A. Homicide detective Elouise "Lou" Norton returns here in her second outing, following her debut in 2014's Land of Shadows. As the book opens, Lou and her still relatively new partner, Collin Taggert, are called to the scene of a raging house fire. A woman named Julia Chatman and two of her children have died in the late-night blaze, and Julia's husband, Christopher, a commodities broker, has been injured in a vain attempt to rescue his family when he arrived home in the middle of the night and discovered the fire after having allegedly worked late in his office.

It's much to early to tell if the fire started accidentally or if it was set deliberately. It's also to early to know if the three victims were murdered or if their deaths were solely the result of the fire. But from the jump, Lou is suspicious and the focus of her suspicion is the family's sole survivor, Christopher Chatman.

On the surface, the family appears to have had it all. They were well-to-do, living in an upscale neighborhood, with lots of clothes, cars and toys. But even before the fire is out, Lou is hearing stories suggesting that all might not have been well with this family and that relations beyween Julia and Christopher Chatman were severely strained.

Lou would know something about that. Her own marriage has been circling the drain for some time now. Her husband, Greg, designs video games and travels extensively for his job. He's also a serial philanderer, and the last time he got caught, he bought his way out of it by apologizing and giving Lou a Porsche. But it's clear he hasn't changed his ways, and this time around, a Porsche probably isn't going to be enough to save his sorry ass.

It's a complex case that will strain Lou's relationship with her partner and with her supervisor. The clues lead in any number of directions and sold evidence is hard to come by. But Lou will soldier on, following her own instincts both on the case and in her personal life, letting the chips fall where they may. All in all, it's a very entertaining novel, featuring one of the freshest and most intriguing new protagonists in crime fiction. Hall writes very well and has clearly done her research. The end result is a book that will keep readers turning the pages at a pace almost as blistering as the fire that lies at the heart of this story.

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