Rachel Howzell has written another riveting thriller starring her favorite (and mine!) female sleuth, the fabulous when furious and even better when behaving Lou Norton, LA Homicide detective extraordinaire. In Skies of Ash, the second in the Detective Elouise Norton series, Norton is called out to investigate an arson/murder in a pleasant, seemingly safe neighborhood of nice houses, employed husbands, and busy wives. In one of those picture-perfect homes, something has gone terribly wrong. The neighbors would prefer to find the perpetrator in an outsider, but Lou senses that the evil started within the circle of friends and neighbors. Can she discover who is cheating whom, who is coveting what, and where the murderer is hiding before someone else gets hurt?
With a mother and two children involved, Norton's heart as well as her mind gets involved in the investigation and with Norton, head and heart cannot be beat. Except when it comes to her own cheating husband - Norton may be tough as nails when it comes to criminals but on her own home turf (sadly graced with an undecorated Christmas tree), Lou becomes more vulnerable. Thank goodness for helpful colleagues (old favorites are back, including partner Colin) and friends, like the best BFFs ever, Syeeda and Lena, both in good form - I had been missing them since finishing up (for the third time), Howzell's previous Norton thriller, Land of Shadows.
I would love to have a friend like Lou Norton: smart, brave, compassionate, and very tough (just wait for the moment when she finally realizes what has to be done on the home front). Lou is also very fun, a quality I like in friends and in fictional heroines - I may not need as much of a release from the daily grind as Lou does (reading and writing don't quite take it out of me the way hunting down murderers takes its toll on Lou) but we all need more fun in our lives and Lou knows how to have a good time, especially with her girlfriends. I have to try the cranberry juice and absinthe concoction Lou mentions early on Skies of Ash. Maybe I'll mix some up with ice before settling in to read Skies of Ash again. Yes, this book is that good and I love finding the clues I missed the first time round. So I'll make a pitcher, get out the lawn chair, and let summer begin. Best way to start is with a great mystery (again and again) and Rachel Howzell has written one of the summer's best.