Texas-born Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is in a Watts bar on a 1948 afternoon because he recently lost his job and needs to figure out what to do next. When he notices a white man come through the door and start talking to the barkeep, he doesn't pay much attention until he's called over to the counter. Turns out DeWitt Albright is willing to pay Easy enough money to make his mortgage several times over; all he has to do is track down the blue-eyed, jazz-loving Daphne Money, who has recently gone missing.
Easy's not quite sure about Albright, but he's willing to do anything legal to keep from losing his house. How hard can it be to visit some jazz clubs and ask if anyone has seen a white girl? Well, as it turns out, pretty hard and pretty dangerous.
Devil in a Blue Dress is the first in Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mystery series, and it is written in the style of classic noir stories. Easy is smart and has survival instincts that he honed during World War II, but even so, Los Angeles can be a tough place for a black man in the 1940s.
This is a stark novel, and as Rawlins learns the ropes of conducting an investigation, figures out whom to trust, and picks up the trail of mysterious Daphne, he sees the seedier side of the city. But the violence, sex, racism, pedophilia, and police brutality are not gratuitous, they are part of the world Easy must navigate if he wants to finish the job.
Mosley has carefully placed each character, and we can never be sure who will be important to Easy's case and what role he or she will play. Both the plot and Easy Rawlins's character are complex, gritty, and full of surprises.
The audio edition (Audible, Inc.) was read by Michael Boatman, who easily handled the various accents and voices without stepping over the line from narrator to dramatist. For my full audio review, see the AudioFile Magazine website.
Devil in the Blue Dress was the winner of the 1991 New Blood Dagger Award and the 1991 Shamus Award for Best First Novel. It was a finalist for the 1991 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. For more on Walter Mosley, visit his website.
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Published by Libri, 1990
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A-Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)