Kemper's Reviews > Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
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's review
Jul 02, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: crime-mystery, detectives, noir, 2011-r

Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins fought his way across Europe as a decorated soldier during World War II, but in post-war Los Angeles, he’s a second class citizen because he’s black. When Easy is fired from a good job due to racism from his boss, he finds himself on the verge of losing the small house he loves. A friend of Easy’s hooks him up with a white man named Albright who has an opportunity to make some quick cash.

Albright is looking for a white girl named Daphne Monet who is known to hang out in black clubs. Since Albright won’t get any answers if he goes looking for her in those places, he wants Easy to find her and is offering $100 for a week’s work. That’s enough to pay his bills, and even though Albright makes Easy extremely nervous, he doesn’t see another way to keep his house.

Easy begins looking for Daphne, but he quickly finds himself the target of cops, rich white men and a dangerous hijacker. Fortunately for Easy, he has one of the staples of crime fiction in his corner; a Bad-Ass-Criminal-Friend. Raymond “Mouse” Alexander is a cheerful little psychopath who has a quick trigger finger and a nose for money, and he’s even more dangerous than the people Easy is already up against.

Mosley created a great character with Easy. In some ways, he’s an average everyman, just looking to get by during a time when his race makes him a frequent target so he doesn’t see the percentage in looking for extra trouble, but Easy also frequently gets fed up with the attitudes of the time and will demand respect when he feels he’s being slighted. He can also be extremely dangerous when pushed.

Since he isn’t a trained detective, Easy finds out what he needs by tapping the many relationships he has within the black community. You won’t find Easy dusting for fingerprints, but you may see him gossiping at the barber shop. Mosley did a superior job of recreating the world of Watts in 1948 and it’s a lot of fun to read about Easy moving through this environment.

Mouse is also a great twist on the classic Bad-Ass-Criminal-Friend concept you see in most detective books. Usually, the BACFs are loyal to their more law abiding friends and follow their lead when their services are called for. In this case, Easy is actually terrified of Mouse and with good reason. They may be old friends, but if Mouse sees an angle to make money, then he’d kill Easy or anyone else that stood in his way without a second thought. Dealing with Mouse is like handling nitroglycerin; it can be useful but if you’re not careful you’ll end up splattered all over the walls.

This was a great start to a good series. The movie version with Denzel Washington is also pretty good with a terrific performance by Don Cheadle as Mouse.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by TK421 (new) - added it

TK421 Have you read The Man in My Basement by Mosley? That is, IMO, his best novel.

message 2: by Kemper (last edited Feb 20, 2011 05:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kemper Gavin wrote: "Have you read The Man in My Basement by Mosley? That is, IMO, his best novel."

I haven't read that one. I just checked out the description and it sounds like something I need to read. Probably my favorite by him is Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned about an ex-convict trying to get by in modern L.A.

James Thane I think that Easy is a great character and I loved watching him work his way through the last half of the 20th century in these books. My only complaint was that Mosley didn't take Easy through these years a bit more slowly and write a few more books in the series. He now says that he is through with the character and is moving on, which is too bad. I thought that this series was easily his best work.

Kemper James wrote:

I got a little burned out on Mosley and didn't read the last several Easy novels or several of his recent ones, but I want to correct this situation by going back through all the Rawlins books and some of his other ones.

Random bragging: I met Mosley once and got a copy of Little Scarlet signed. The man wears a fedora well.

message 5: by Mike (new)

Mike Great review, Kemper.

Love this series and Mosley's writing. You make a great point about his recreating the world of Watts in 1948 - it really hammers home the attitudes and beliefs in that environment and how Easy is challenged daily as a result.

Thought the movie was well done too and Don Cheadle was exceptional as Mouse. I woul dhave loved to have seen more of the books made into films.

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