cover image A Red Death

A Red Death

Walter Mosley. W. W. Norton & Company, $19.95 (284pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02998-7

Mosley's second novel (after Devil in a Blue Dress ) confirms the advent of an extraordinary storyteller. It is five years after the events detailed in the first novel and Easy Rawlins has used the stolen money he kept back in 1948 to purchase a pair of L.A. apartment buildings. There he masquerades as the janitor, quietly enjoying the fruits of ownership and dabbling in private investigation. But he is suddenly in the grip of powerful government forces. When the IRS wants to know where Easy got the money to become a landlord, Easy's sole recourse is to agree to work undercover for the FBI on a witch-hunt to net Reds. The situation presents only the first of the moral dilemmas here: Easy's remorseless, deadly best friend, Mouse, has come to L.A. in pursuit of his ex-wife, EttaMae, who has fled with their young son. Etta, however, is the only woman Easy has ever loved, and she is more than willing to reciprocate--at least on the physical level. Solid and entertaining, the story nonetheless remains secondary to the portrait of a time and a place, to the indelible reality of Easy Rawlins, a black man in a world not yet ready to accept him. Mosley, with his unique talents, may well be in the process of creating a genre classic. BOMC, QPB and Mysterious Book Club selections. (July)