CHARCOAL JOE by Walter Mosley


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Fasten your seat belts. It’s time for another simmering tour of Los Angeles, this time in 1968, with Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins serving once more as the unwilling guide.

Things are looking up for Easy. He’s running WRENS-L, a licensed detective agency whose name combines his initials with those of his partners, Saul Lynx and Whisper Natly, and he’s about to pop the question to his longtime girlfriend, Bonnie Shay. But things don’t exactly work out as he expects. Bonnie’s back together with tribal prince Joguye Cham, so instead of sending out wedding invitations, Easy reluctantly takes on a job for his boyhood friend Mouse Alexander’s equally dangerous friend Rufus Tyler, aka Charcoal Joe. Dr. Seymour Brathwaite, a 22-year-old physicist whose father is one of Joe’s many associates, has been found on the scene of a double murder, and the LAPD has him in custody. Joe, “a tombstone just waitin’ for a name,” who’s already enjoying the county’s hospitality on unrelated charges, wants Easy to find evidence that will get Seymour released, and it isn’t long before Jasmine Palmas-Hardy, who was once Seymour’s foster mother, offers Easy $18,000 to bail him out. That’s ironic, since Seymour’s less menacing than any of the low-level thugs, career criminals, ladies of the night, and police officers thronging the streets of Los Angeles and impeding Easy’s path to anything like a simple solution. There’ll be three more murders, if you don’t count the deaths of two goons who make the mistake of attacking Easy and his capable friend Fearless Jones, and enough minor felonies to land the whole cast in jail forever.

Less cluttered than Rose Gold (2014), though that’s not saying much. But then you don’t read Mosley for the throughline but for his matchless ability to present mosaic worlds in which even the most minor characters arrive burning with their own unquenchable stories.

Pub Date: June 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-385-53920-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2016


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