In a rare slowing of his usual leaps forward in time, Mosley, who’s chronicled the adventures of reluctant Watts detective Ezekiel Rawlins from 1948 (Devil in a Blue Dress, 1990) to 1963 (A Little Yellow Dog, 1996), edges forward only three months to tell the story of Easy’s search for Brawly Brown, the hulking young man who ran away from his mother, Alva Torres, smack into trouble. He’s been drawn into the Urban Revolutionary Party, a black-power group that advocates either cultural unity (according to URP director Xavier Bodan and secretary Tina Montes) or armed insurrection (according to LAPD Detective Vincent Knorr, one of the D-squad stalwarts charged with bringing the party down). Even before he meets these antagonists, however, Easy’s already followed Brawly into trouble when his visit to Alva’s cousin, Isolda Moore, leaves him standing over the cooling corpse of Brawly’s father, lying dead in Isolda’s doorway. The evidence, of course, points to the son who’d threatened his old man. But Mosley uses this central conflict to focus a whole seething world of trouble, from Easy’s guilt over the death of his fearless, violent friend Mouse to his heroic efforts to keep his family together to his eternal battles with the cops who are railroading him once more.
“Where I come from they don’t have dark-skinned private detectives,” says Easy in the finest rationale ever proposed for the amateur sleuth. Helping his brothers only because nobody else will, he returns from his six-year sabbatical more complex and compelling than ever before: a hero for his time and ours.