Madeline's Reviews > A Red Death

A Red Death by Walter Mosley
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Nov 04, 10

bookshelves: assigned-reading, detective-fiction
Read in October, 2010

We're back to the American detectives in my class, and are on the adventures of Easy Rawlins - who I guess can't really be called a detective at all. He's not a private eye like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, he's not a retired detective like Poirot, and he's not even one of those armchair detectives like Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes. I guess the best way to describe Easy Rawlins is as a sort of mercenary. If someone needs a job done, he does it. If they want protection from somebody, he'll do it. He figures things out, but he's never actively being a detective in the traditional sense. Instead, he just sort of goes along with whatever's happening and tries to keep his head above water.

That's the setup for this novel - at the beginning, Rawlins is being investigated by the IRS (he has some slightly illegal business enterprises, and they want to know where he's getting the money). The IRS wants to put him in jail, but then the FBI swoops in and tells Rawlins that they'll get the IRS off his back if he does a job for them. With no real choice, Rawlins agrees. His job is to go to a local church and get in with a Jewish man named Chaim Wenzler, who is a Communist. Since this is the 50's, that means he's obviously evil and must be stopped. Except, of course, he turns out to be a decent guy and Rawlins is left to consider the question of who's right and who's wrong.

Oh, and also he has to solve some murders that he's being framed for. You know, typical stuff.

The book was interesting and fast-paced, and even though Mosley doesn't have the gift for description that other hard-boiled American detectives I've reviewed have, he still writes very well. I was also pleased to see that there are actually some good female characters in this book that don't fall into the stereotype of either Femme Fatale or Dame in Distress. There are at least three really good female characters in this novel, and they serve as more than just decoration and sex appeal. So, good for Mosley.

Read for: Social Forces in the Detective Novel
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message 1: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Koivu Nice review, Madeline. From what I've read of Mosley, I agree, he does draw up a rounder female character than some writers are capable of.


Madeline Especially in detective novels - I love Dashiell Hammet as much as the next girl, but he tends to write the same female character every time. It was really refreshing to read a mystery novel where the women functioned as more grab antagonists or decoration.


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