Tag Archives: Rachel Howzell Hall

My Musing ~ Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall

Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall is the third book in the “Detective Elouise Norton” mystery series. Publisher: Forge, May 2016

Trail of EchoesOn a rainy spring day in Los Angeles, homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton is called away from a rare lunch date to Bonner Park, where the body of thirteen-year-old Chanita Lords has been discovered. When Lou and her partner, Colin Taggert, take on the sad task of informing Chanita’s mother, Lou is surprised to find herself in the apartment building she grew up in.

Chanita was interested in photography and, much like Lou, a girl destined to leave the housing projects behind. Her death fits a chilling pattern of exceptional girls–dancers, artists, honors scholars-gone recently missing in the same school district, the one Lou attended not so long ago.

Lou is valiantly trying to make a go of life after her divorce and doing everything she can to avoid her long estranged father. She races to catch a serial killer, but he remains frustratingly out of her reach, sending cryptic cyphers and taunting clues that arrive too late to prevent the next death. This one is personal, and it’s only a matter of time before he comes after Lou herself.

Going back home finds Lou in an unpleasant situation and then boom, this fast-paced and riveting drama takes hold and I’m immersed in all that is happening within the narrative. Heart-pounding, adrenaline rush, intrigued, and suspense kept me glued to the pages as I had to know what happened and how this will all end. I enjoy a book that consumes me and places me in the middle of all the action and this one, with its multiple subplots, culminated in a conclusion worthy of this story. I like how the mystery was presented with suspects and clues where all the characters played a pivotal role that lead to the identity and apprehension of the killer. Lou is wonderfully developed and crafted by the author with the determination and vulnerability to handle what life places in her path. This was a great read and I look forward to more stories from this author and series.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC from the author

Policing With LAPD Homicide Detective Lou Norton by Rachel Howzell Hall

Trail of EchoesAs soon as we entered Apartment 3204, I thanked the universe for Francis J. Townsend, the inventor of Noxzema. I whipped out my tiny cobalt jar from my jacket pocket and slicked cream beneath my nostrils. “I’d stay the hell away from Mason if I were you.” I offered the jar to my partner Colin Taggert.

“Don’t worry, Lou.” He took the jar and dabbed cream on his upper lip. “We had snakes in Colorado, too.”

We eased down the unit’s hallway, nodding to the responding officer who had called it in. As we reached the bedroom door, my step faltered. That smell. Iron. Anger. Spilled beer. Spilled blood. Getting stronger even as time passed.

Colin blanched and his Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat. “Wow.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Gonna be murder getting that smell out. Ready?”

He nodded, but his eyes jittered in their sockets.

I twisted the doorknob.

Dark. Bare. Except for the dead woman laying somewhere on the tattered carpet.

The roving spotlight of our LAPD helicopter played against the walls alongside the red-blue globes of light from emergency vehicles parked three stories below on Nicolet Avenue. Sometimes, the bright light glinted off the scraps of aluminum foil, the silver needles on used syringes, off the backs of roaches, dead and alive.

Heaven, a seventeen-year old hooker, lay somewhere in that trash. The helicopter’s light showed us her left heel before it swung back to the wall.

“How did she get mixed up in all this?” Colin asked.

“Her brother—”

Bam!

A gunshot echoed outside, from the ground floor.

“What the hell?” Colin asked.

We left the girl there—alas, she wasn’t going anywhere until the coroner arrived—and ran down the stairs and out of the apartment building. The wet heat slammed into me but I pushed past it and raced down to the carports in the alley.

Officer Mason Kaminski paced near the fallen body of a black male. He rubbed his red face, then let a hand drift to his sweaty bald head. His partner Billy Verrano gaped at the body on the ground.

Sixteen, maybe seventeen years old, the dead kid lay face-up on the asphalt. That crimson stuff that kept us all alive blossomed on his white t-shirt while the stuff that kept us toxic-free darkened his red Dickie’s. The BPS tat on his neck shone with sweat.

“What the hell happened?” I kneeled beside the kid and gripped his wrist.

No pulse.

“He was a wise guy,” Mason said. “Says to me, ‘What up, cuz?’ I told him to stop, to get back over here. He reached for his waistband, and I shot.”

I studied the ground around the kid—cigarette butts, a carton of ZigZags, a single bullet casing.

“Two crime scenes,” Colin said. “Damn.”

Mason frowned, “Crime scene? I ain’t done nothing wrong, Colorado.”

Colin held up his hands. “Relax, dude.”

I beckoned Verrano. “Let’s talk, us three.”

Veranno followed Colin and me toward the stairs.

“So what happened?” I asked.

The patrol cop told me the same as Mason. “But Mason pulled first. If he hadn’t, we’d both be dead.”

Back at the carport, Mason sat on a dilapidated Cutlass, chatting and laughing with two other uniforms. The victim still lay there on the bloody asphalt. . . gun in his left hand.

Was that gun there before?

I’d been up all night dealing with pain in my neck and shoulder. Didn’t sleep. Couldn’t sleep. When was the last time I’d had a good sleep? Was fatigue now making me—?

“Did you run his name?” I asked Mason.

The patrol cop nodded. “T’riq Sellars, seventeen. Jacket as long as the Mississippi River. Future Pelican Bay scholar.”

Colin nodded. “All-American Bad Guy.”

“You said that the kid said, ‘What up, cuz,’ then pulled the gun.”

“Yep.”

I pointed to the dead boy. “This kid said that?”

Verrano and Mason both nodded.

I sighed, then backed away from the scene.

Colin followed me. “What’s wrong?”

“The kid’s BPS, Colin,” I said. “A Blood. He’d never say that. And the gun. Was it there when we first got here?”

Colin peered at me. “Umm. . .”

If it had been, I’d missed it. And I’d have to admit that I hadn’t been the same after my car accident up in Bonner Park. And if I admitted that, the powers-that-be would question everything I did.

But if I hadn’t missed it, and the gun was planted after the fact, then, we had a problem. A serious problem that could end with investigations and riots, open season for all cops bullshit.

And when Lieutenant Rodriguez said, “Lou? Was the gun there?”

I swallowed, then said. . .


Trail Of Echoes is the third book in the Detective Elouise Norton mystery series, published by Forge Books, May 2016.

On a rainy spring day in Los Angeles, homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton is called away from a rare lunch date to Bonner Park, where the body of thirteen-year-old Chanita Lords has been discovered. When Lou and her partner, Colin Taggert, take on the sad task of informing Chanita’s mother, Lou is surprised to find herself in the apartment building she grew up in.

Chanita was interested in photography and, much like Lou, a black girl destined to leave the housing projects behind. Her death fits a chilling pattern of exceptional African-American girls–dancers, artists, honors scholars-gone recently missing in the same school district, the one Lou attended not so long ago.

Lou is valiantly trying to make a go of life after her divorce and doing everything she can to avoid her long estranged father. She races to catch a serial killer, but he remains frustratingly out of her reach, sending cryptic cyphers and taunting clues that arrive too late to prevent the next death. This one is personal, and it’s only a matter of time before he comes after Lou herself.

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About the author
Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of the Detective Elouise Norton series. Land of Shadows and Skies of Ash (Forge) were included on the Los Angeles Times’ “Books to Read This Summer” for 2014 and 2015, and the New York Times called Lou Norton “a formidable fighter—someone you want on your side.” The third novel in the series, Trail of Echoes, was recently published in May. A featured writer on NPR’s acclaimed ‘Crime in the City’ series, Rachel also served as a mentor in AWP’s Writer to Writer Program and is currently a member of the Mystery Writers of America. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. Connect with Rachel at rachelhowzell.com

Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a hardcover copy of Trail Of Echoes. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end June 6, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

Just Another Day With Detective Lou Norton by Rachel Howzell Hall

Skies of AshOccupation: LAPD Homicide Detective

Even with a bloody hole in the middle of her buttermilk-colored forehead, Dianne Hannigan made the cops standing over her sigh and whisper, “Wow.”

Colin ran his hand over his spiky blond hair. “She shouldn’t be dead.”

I shrugged. “A woman this beautiful only has so many places she’ll end up.” I paused, then added, “Like, in a L’il Wayne video.”

“Or with some king from some Middle Eastern country,” he added.

“Or on a floor,” I said, “soaking in her own blood.”

Dianne Hannigan was not Queen Noor of Jordan nor was she shaking her ass to “How To Love.” She lay on the hardwood floor of the den in her Baldwin Hills ranch-style.

Three lemon-scented candles burned on the mantel. Two near-empty glasses of red wine sat on the coffee table. Pages of the Wall Street Journal spread across the couch cushions, and Essence magazine had fallen to the Persian rug. Looked like a normal Sunday night.

Until you glimpsed crimson blood splatter darkening to maroon, drops of it violating the Diego Rivera print and the white keys of the baby grand piano.

The dead man collapsed beside Dianne Hannigan was more Jimmy Walker than Idris Elba. The back of his skull had been blown out, and bits of brain and skull-bone had landed in the lace neckline of his wife’s pink nightgown. Middle-age gut, receding hairline and jagged fingernails—Abner Hannigan had not been a vain man.

The couple’s matching platinum and diamond wedding bands told me their story.

So did the Smith & Wesson revolver still in Abner’s right hand.

Colin peered at me with clear iceberg blue eyes. “Lou, you there?”

“Barely.” I swallowed, but my mouth remained dry.

“The neighbor said that they’d been arguing a lot this week,” Officer Anderson shared. “Friday night, Mrs. Hannigan threatened to divorce him right there on the front lawn.” The chubby cop glanced at the little steno pad clutched in his brown paw. “Then, Mr. Hannigan flipped out, ran back into the house, came out with a golf club and fucked up her Escalade.”

“Damn,” Colin and I both said.

“The kids—Keith, twenty, and Ava, sixteen—witnessed the fight,” the R/O continued, “and they called us. Said their parents were drunk-ass drunks, always fighting. But the golf club, that was something new.”

“Anybody get arrested?” I asked.

“Nope,” Anderson said. “It was all a misunderstanding, nothing to see here, officers.”

Colin and I stared at the Hannigans as Officer Anderson wandered to the foyer. He opened the front door and sounds of radio chatter, emergency vehicle sirens and sobbing drifted into the den until that door closed again. The loud parts of death investigations blocked again by solid wood.

Dianne Hannigan’s long sepia hair spread about her head in a clumpy halo. The drying blood pinned her to the wood planks. Abner’s right hand, curled into a fist, sat in a pool of blood above his head, and the silver Apple watch…

I cocked my head.

“What?” Colin asked.

“I spy, with my little eyes…” I pointed to Abner’s high-tech watch.

“Pretty sweet,” Colin said. “I hear that it tracks—”

“Who cares?” I snapped. “I’m sure it’ll provide some cool ‘aha’ moment tomorrow, but right now, I’m old school. He’s wearing it on his right wrist.”

“Yeah? So?”

“Your watch is on which wrist?”

Colin lifted his left hand—his gaudy Tommy Hilfiger piece shimmered in the light.

I also lifted my left hand—my classic Timex, a college graduation gift from Mom, kept on ticking after twenty years. “You’re right-handed. I am, too.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Again: So?”

“His watch is on his right wrist—unless he’s gauche, that would mean he’s left-handed.”

“Ha. Gauche. Left. I see what you did—” Colin stopped and stared at me. Then, he slowly turned to look down at Abner.

“And if he’s left-handed,” I said, “why is he holding the gun in his right hand?”

Colin’s Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat. “You could be wrong.”

“It’s happened before,” I admitted. But the gnawing in my belly, the familiar ache that always warned, ‘Here there be monsters,’ goaded my righteous rightness the longer I stood over this dead couple. The pounding in my head quickened as I said, “You don’t shoot a gun with your off-hand and actually hit the target.”

“And he hit his target twice,” Colin noted. “The middle of her forehead and, I’m guessing, whatever he was aiming at when he stuck the gun in his mouth.” He took a deep breath but held it as he peered at me.

I nodded. “Strange, right?”

He took a minute before he nodded and finally exhaled. “We need to talk to the kids.”

Abner and Dianne. . . What the hell happened here?


You can read more about Detective Elouise ‘Lou’ Norton in Skies of Ash, the second book in the “Detective Lou Norton” mystery series, published by Forge Books. The first book in the series is Land of Shadows.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on June 5 for the chance to win a copy of Skies of Ash. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.

About the author
Rachel Howzell Hall lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. Her first novel, A Quiet Storm, received a starred review from Library Journal and was a featured selection for Borders’ Original Voices program, as well as an alternate selection for Black Expressions book club. Skies of Ash is her second novel featuring Detective Elouise Norton. Visit Rachel at www.rachelhowzell.com.

A Day in the Life of Elouise ‘Lou’ Norton by Rachel Howzell Hall

Land of ShadowsOccupation: LAPD Homicide Detective

The walls of Interview Room 1 closed in on us, the gray soundproofing foam torn and gouged by the nails and fists of angry men. I shifted in my seat, then winced—my bra strap and leather holster were both biting into the fleshy part of my shoulder. Glanced at my wristwatch—almost an hour had passed—then gazed at the mountain of an eighteen-year old hunched in the chair across from me.

Brown splotches and splatters had dried on Kobe McAvoy’s gray sweatshirt and tan Dickies. Blood, now the color of chocolate pudding, had stained the toes of his used-to-be white Air Jordans. Aggravated assault, burglary, concealed weapon… So ambitious, this kid.

Kobe folded his arms and chewed the inside of his cheek. Just… sat there as though he was waiting for the rinse cycle to start. Definitely not acting as though he was seated across from a homicide detective liking him for the murders of Destinee and Cayman Andrews, his girlfriend’s parents.

I looked at my watch again: seven minutes until six. “It’s getting’ late, Kobe.”

“Where Dee at?” he uttered, his voice a mix of molasses and hardening lava.

“Down the hall.”

The last time I’d seen Destinee Junior, she was collapsed on the carpet in the conference room. A mess of tears, wails and calls to Jesus. The sixteen-year old had refused to shed the filthy pink tank top and jeans she wore, stiffened now from her parents’ blood.

My gaze landed on Kobe’s fingernails.

Clean.

Hunh.

Destinee and Cayman Andrews had been discovered dead in their bedroom, stabbed sometime between six in the morning and noon. A knife with the six-inch, serrated blade had been found in the kitchen sink. I had stood over the thirty-year old woman, murdered in her bed, and had stopped counting her stab wounds after reaching ’21.’

And now, hours later, I sat with Kobe McAvoy, the boyfriend. Blood everywhere… except for his nails. With all that stabbing, no blood. Hunh.

“So what happened?” I asked him for the eighth time.

He glared at the tabletop and said nothing.

“Why did you kill them?”

At eighteen, I didn’t need his parents’ permission to question him. And he hadn’t lawyered up… yet.

Kobe sighed, then sank in his seat.

The aromas of fried turkey, sweet potatoes and mac ‘n cheese wafted from the detective’s bureau to this room where Kobe and I sat. Thanksgiving Day. While the city feasted on cranberry sauce and watched the Cowboys lose to the Raiders, here I was, interviewing a felon who wouldn’t deny, wouldn’t confirm, wouldn’t do jack.

But Kobe’s stomach growled.

In response, my stomach growled louder. “Hungry?”

He gave a one-shouldered shrug.

“I am, too.” I offered the maybe-murderer a smile. “I’ll get us something to eat.”

Five minutes later, I returned to Interview Room 1 holding two plates filled with food, plastic forks and cans of orange soda. I slipped a plate in front of him.

Kobe’s eyes shone, and his shoulders drooped as the smells of a hot, holiday meal enveloped him. He stuck his fork into the mound of collard greens, and quickly shoveled the wilted veggies into his mouth.

I also took a bite of greens, but kept one eye on the big boy seated across from me. “Good, huh?”

“Ummhmmm.” He stuffed his mouth with more greens. “She don’t use pork, huh?”

I shook my head. “Diabetes.”

“Smoked turkey?”

“Yup.”

“Good, but it don’t taste the same.”

“Try the macaroni,” I said. “She uses, like, 603 kinds of cheese.”

He dug his fork into the cheesy noodles, then shoved a clump into his mouth. “That’s the bomb-diggity.”

I smiled. “Told you.”

He wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Destinee hated her moms and pops.”

I paused, then said, “Yeah?”

“What she say to y’all?”

With my fork I made crosshatches in the sweet potatoes. “She’s not talking much. She keeps saying, ‘They’re gone, they’re gone.’”

He sucked his teeth, then used them to tear through the turkey leg. He grunted and shook his head.

I squinted at him. “Is that headshake cuz it’s the best turkey leg you’ve ever had, or…?”

He met my eyes. “She’s the one who did it.”

I canted my head. “Can you prove that?”

A small smile. “Detective Norton, I got all the proof in the world.” He pointed to his plate. “Can I finish this, though? Cuz what I got to tell you… We gon’ be here for a while.”


Meet the author
Rachel Howzell Hall lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. She is the author of Land of Shadows (Forge), a new mystery series featuring LAPD Homicide Detective Elouise ‘Lou’ Norton.

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