I read a lot of mystery fiction and one of my recurring criticisms is how much I loathe the tough talking’, hard drinkin’, angry-at-the-world male detective. It’s beyond cliche at this point; these folks always act like the world owes them something. What do you have to be so mad about?
Anyway, Rachel Howzell Hall’s Elouise Norton could easily fall into this trap but she’s a black woman and that in and of itself is refreshing. She’s witty and not scared and knows how to handle herself and has a problematic past and all the things that normally come from these books. But if you’re a white guy like me, you’re seeing it with a different eye and that’s much appreciated.
The plot is well-layered, even if the flashbacks are a bit too much of a distractor. It’s a Los Angeles mystery tale about the kind of Los Angeles that doesn’t always make the gossip rags and tourist sites. Hall’s Norton covers all corners of the city while trying to work things out in her private life. All along the tension builds and where I thought the story was going to go in one direction, the conclusion pulled an end around and really left me satisfied as a reader.
Hall came come off a bit try hardy-ish at times but I’ll let it slide because it’s a first mystery novel in a series and a good start. She’s beginning to get a reputation with her standalone so I might try one of those next.