Review: Skies of Ash by Rachel Howzell Hall

Rachel Howzell Hall 978-0-7653-3636-1    Forge 320 Pages; First Printing: May 2015

Utilizing a style reminiscent of the classic L.A. detective story, Skies of Ash confronts the reader with a technically astute murder mystery. Police detective Lou Norton wakes and stirs around with husband Greg but their stilted session is interrupted by a telephone call, an alert to her newest case: an arson murder at the Chatman residence; three people dead, which leads Detective Norton to her prime suspect, the husband. Her partner does not agree and thinks she’s letting her own marital woes cloud her judgment. Rachel Howzell Hall provides a beautiful montage of Los Angeles and a zany cast of characters,
while balancing two disparate story lines that are linked only through Detective Norton’s personal issues, in that, just as hers, the Chatman’s marriage had the infidelity, the jealousy and more. What it did not have are the children, the nosy neighbors, the best friends- a married couple who are a bit too helpful. The early part of the novel does plateau a bit quickly as Hall rounds out the various characters that make up Lou Norton’s life. Once the action picks up, Hall knocks through the many motives and suspects, each providing a surprising element, avoiding what could have been a dense, formulaic story. Hall’s straight-forward style and accessible prose glides through emotionally charged moments, revealing a cynical detective with a cool demeanor yet still vulnerable to the fear of letting go that plagues us all. 

Recommendation: MEDIUM-HIGH


Reviewed by Guichard Cadet