Even before sultry Elana Love walks into mild-mannered Paris Minton’s life three months after his Watts bookstore opens, Mosley can’t resist his signature scene: A pair of cops stroll into the shop determined to push Paris around just because he’s a black man and it’s 1954. But the trouble they spell is slow-burning compared to Elana’s entrance a month later, when her search for Rev. William Grove, late head of the neighboring Messenger of the Divine flock, is interrupted by Leon Douglas, the violent ex-con determined to get his hands on the 10,000-franc bond his ex-cellmate, embezzler Sol Tannenbaum, left in Elana’s custody to pay for his protection in the big house. In a whirlwind opening movement that ranks as Mosley’s most accomplished, Leon chases Elana and Paris en route to Sol’s; Elana beds Paris and leaves him high and dry in Venice Beach; Paris returns to find his bookstore burned to the ground; and Sol becomes the first of a dozen casualties. Fight fire with fire, thinks Paris, and promptly bails out his own secret weapon, Fearless Jones, who goes up against assorted thieves, killers, crooked cops, and Nazi swindlers with a ferocity that soon communicates itself to his inoffensive friend.
If they don’t find Paris and Fearless quite a match for Easy Rawlins and his volatile friend Mouse Alexander (A Little Yellow Dog, 1996, etc.), fans starved for the mean streets of Watts during Mosley’s sabbatical from mystery writing will rejoice in a prose style richer and more artfully stripped down than ever in the genre’s first must-read of the year. (Author tour)