cover image Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress

Walter Mosley. W. W. Norton & Company, $19.95 (219pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02854-6

This jaunty crime novel, set in L.A. in 1948, introduces Ezekiel ``Easy'' Rawlins, a recently laid-off mechanic who is young, black and--but for the need to meet the mortgage on his new house--a most reluctant sleuth. Easy hails originally from the tough Fifth Ward in Houston; he served his country, landing on the Normandy Beach. He knows racism firsthand and seeing too many white men in one day unnerves him. But a white businessman, Dewitt Albright, engages Easy to locate a beautiful French woman named Daphne Monet who has a ``predilection for the company of negroes.'' She also has $30,000 of someone else's money. Easy becomes entangled in a chain of events that takes him to bar after bar to meet a range of characters, most of whom are seeking their own advantages in the pursuit of Daphne. With bodies piling up, there is no turning back for Easy, as he is dogged by brutish white cops and a few ``brothers'' none too friendly. The language is hard-boiled (``Somewhere between the foo young and the check I decided to cut my losses'') and the portrait of black city life gritty and real. But the first-person narrative, which hurtles along with improbable transitions and sketchy psychological portraits, leaves the reader winded rather than exhilarated at the book's predictable conclusion. 25,000 first printing; $25,000 ad/promo; movie rights to Reuben Cannon ; Mysterious Book Club and QPB selections. (July)