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A Red Death

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'It has come to my attention, sir, that between August 1948 and September of 1952 you came into possession of at least three real estate properties.? 'I have reviewed your tax records back to 1945 and you show no large income, in any year. This would suggest that you could not legally afford such expenditures...' When an income tax officer makes him an offer he can't refus 'It has come to my attention, sir, that between August 1948 and September of 1952 you came into possession of at least three real estate properties.? 'I have reviewed your tax records back to 1945 and you show no large income, in any year. This would suggest that you could not legally afford such expenditures...' When an income tax officer makes him an offer he can't refuse, Easy Rawlins is forced out of retirement and into the infiltration of his local church, the First African Baptist, and the surveillance of local radicals. Murderers strike and he becomes the prime suspect of the Los Angeles Police Department, who lose no sleep over the fate of 'freelance' private eyes.


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'It has come to my attention, sir, that between August 1948 and September of 1952 you came into possession of at least three real estate properties.? 'I have reviewed your tax records back to 1945 and you show no large income, in any year. This would suggest that you could not legally afford such expenditures...' When an income tax officer makes him an offer he can't refus 'It has come to my attention, sir, that between August 1948 and September of 1952 you came into possession of at least three real estate properties.? 'I have reviewed your tax records back to 1945 and you show no large income, in any year. This would suggest that you could not legally afford such expenditures...' When an income tax officer makes him an offer he can't refuse, Easy Rawlins is forced out of retirement and into the infiltration of his local church, the First African Baptist, and the surveillance of local radicals. Murderers strike and he becomes the prime suspect of the Los Angeles Police Department, who lose no sleep over the fate of 'freelance' private eyes.

30 review for A Red Death

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Reading

    I'm loving this series and I'm not a series person. Easy Rawlins is lovable even when he messes up. You're still still behind him. Mosley continues to paint a vivd picture of blacks living in racist America in the 1940s, specifically in and around Los Angeles. The story has recurring characters, murder, and enough ups and downs to keep any reader interested. I love the old crime detective feel of the novel. If you're participating in March Mystery Madness you might want to check these out. I'm loving this series and I'm not a series person. Easy Rawlins is lovable even when he messes up. You're still still behind him. Mosley continues to paint a vivd picture of blacks living in racist America in the 1940s, specifically in and around Los Angeles. The story has recurring characters, murder, and enough ups and downs to keep any reader interested. I love the old crime detective feel of the novel. If you're participating in March Mystery Madness you might want to check these out.

  2. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    Mosley takes the traditional hard-boiled detective mystery and gives it a refreshing spin by spotlighting African-American communities. His lead, Easy Rawlins, is a Louisiana/Texas transplant now working in L.A. as a janitor, maintaining the building he surreptitiously owns. As any decent detective fiction, the city plays a prominent role in the life of the detective and Mosley nicely captures a range of African-American experiences in period L.A. Easy is in a tough spot and is hoping Mofass, th Mosley takes the traditional hard-boiled detective mystery and gives it a refreshing spin by spotlighting African-American communities. His lead, Easy Rawlins, is a Louisiana/Texas transplant now working in L.A. as a janitor, maintaining the building he surreptitiously owns. As any decent detective fiction, the city plays a prominent role in the life of the detective and Mosley nicely captures a range of African-American experiences in period L.A. Easy is in a tough spot and is hoping Mofass, the man who manages his property, can give him some tips on dealing with the I.R.S. Mofass' not-so-helpful advice is to lie to the Revenue Man. "Go on in there and lie, Mr. Rawlins. Tell 'em you don't own nuthin.' Tell 'em that you a workin' man and that somebody must have it out for you to lie and say you got that property. Tell 'em that and then see what they gotta say." When he arrives at home, the wife of his volatile best friend, Mouse, is in his house with their son. She's split with Mouse and thought Easy would provide a refuge. "She could knock a man into next Tuesday, or she could hold you so tight that you felt like a child again, in your mother's loving embrace." Easy follows Mofass' advice, but gets a bad feeling when the agent subsequently asks him to get (non-existent) paperwork together and to be ready for his call. When he returns downtown, he comes to the attention of a different kind of fed. It's 1953, Communist hunting is a national pastime, and when Easy is offered an out with the IRS if he 'reports for his country,' he finds himself reluctantly agreeing. I like the language, although thankfully Easy's internal dialogue avoids dialect, as I find it makes for a long read. I like the awareness Easy has of modifying his speech patterns depending on which sub-culture he's in. Its a survival strategy, and I enjoy seeing how Easy uses it to his advantage. Mosley is masterful at weaving different race issues in the story, from Easy getting an education on the marginalization Jews experience, to Easy's own interaction with mostly white lawmen. There's an enlightening scene where he meets a black L.A. detective at a death scene and watches him interact as equals with his partner. I also love the way Easy describes the people he meets: "His color was dark brown but bright, as if a powerful lamp shone just below his skin." "A sepia-colored woman" "John's face looked like it was chiseled in ebony" "Jackson's skin was so black that it glinted blue when in the full sun" It's a small thing that doesn't appear in most white detective fiction novels, but it says so much about the author and his regard for his characters. Problems for me center around narrative arc; I feel like Mosley slips a lot of characters in, some important and many incidental. It becomes hard to distinguish between important and inconsequential. More significantly, I found the character of Easy a bit less likeable in this book; as Kemper said, Easy has "man ho tendencies," making him harder to like. I give Mosley credit for putting Easy in a hard ethical place in relation to the I.R.S.; however, he also does it to him in his emotional life. Between the sexism, Easy's own anti-Semitism, his willingness to use the church and his affair, there isn't much to redeem him. Note: this edition also contains a short story, 'Silver Lining,' inserted before the main story. It proves to be a sort of spoiler for a plot point in A Red Death. If you care about such things, skip it. Overall, two and a half stars. I think I'll head back to Devil in a Blue Dress and capture more of the magic I remember from Easy. Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    It’s been said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. Easy Rawlins has dealt with plenty of death as a black World War II veteran who also has been mixed up with very bad people in post-war Los Angeles. But this time he’ll have to deal with taxes, too. Which is worse? Ask Al Capone. Set in the early ‘50s, it’s been a few years since Easy’s introduction in Devil in a Blue Dress, and he has set himself up nicely by taking advantage of an illicit windfall to buy some apartment buildings as wel It’s been said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. Easy Rawlins has dealt with plenty of death as a black World War II veteran who also has been mixed up with very bad people in post-war Los Angeles. But this time he’ll have to deal with taxes, too. Which is worse? Ask Al Capone. Set in the early ‘50s, it’s been a few years since Easy’s introduction in Devil in a Blue Dress, and he has set himself up nicely by taking advantage of an illicit windfall to buy some apartment buildings as well as acting as an unlicensed private detective for the black community. Easy got a little too cute for his own good when he set up his real estate purchases and now he has a zealous IRS agent after him. His only way out is take a deal offered by the FBI to befriend and report on a suspected communist agitator working with a church in Easy’s neighborhood. Easy soon has even bigger problems than being sent to prison for tax evasion with the appearance of an old flame looking to rekindle a relationship. The problem is that the woman is the wife of Easy’s old friend, the murderous Mouse. Getting on Mouse’s bad side is a sure way to get dead, but Easy can’t stay away from the woman he considers the love of his life. Just as he did in the previous book, Mosley has recreated a rich and vivid world of the black community in post-war L.A. and then populated it with a variety of characters for Easy to interact with. The theme in this one is betrayal with Easy having to spy on a man he comes to like and respect as well as his guilt about his feelings for Mouse’s wife. The one sour note in this one is Easy’s man-ho tendencies. Despite carrying on with a woman he claims to have deep feelings for, Easy casually beds several other women over the course of the book and never once shows the slightest bit of guilt or remorse over any of them. Maybe Mosley was trying to illustrate the different standards that applied with regards to men and women in days of yore, but it makes Easy appear like kind of a heartless bastard.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl James

    Book 2 to a epic series. Walter Mosley is an awesome author who has written an awesome series of crime at it's best. Book 2 to a epic series. Walter Mosley is an awesome author who has written an awesome series of crime at it's best.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    ...because I said I'd probably change my mind in twenty four hours and it's been almost exactly twenty four hours... Forgive me for a moment while I engage in a small bit of phenomenological bracketing (or maybe this is something like deconstruction) and put aside for a moment the race of the characters and the socio-historical context that the story is set in and just focus on the skeletal remains of the book. What I'm left with is the story of a tax evader who the law catches up with and offers ...because I said I'd probably change my mind in twenty four hours and it's been almost exactly twenty four hours... Forgive me for a moment while I engage in a small bit of phenomenological bracketing (or maybe this is something like deconstruction) and put aside for a moment the race of the characters and the socio-historical context that the story is set in and just focus on the skeletal remains of the book. What I'm left with is the story of a tax evader who the law catches up with and offers him the chance to get rid of his own legal troubles in exchange for helping to ruin someone else's life. The tax evader has some pangs and conscience and feels weird for what he is doing and finds himself in a lot of hot water when people he knows start winding up dead. He sleeps with a bunch of women, gets into some fights and unravels a conspiracy and in the end all is good for him. Without the 1905's racial and political setting the story is kind of weak, at least to me. It's a pretty standard story filled with quite a bit of masculine bravado and the resolution is a mixture of being kind of obvious and also kind of 'wait, how exactly did he make that final jump in reasoning to figure this out?' Throw in some of the red scare elements to the story and it takes on a bit more interesting shape but I was left wondering if mysteries aren't just all like those cozy ones, where there is a theme like baking or knitting or cats to add color to the standard who-dunnit fare. Here instead of say a scrap booking group who get caught up in a murrrder! it's an African-American swindler of sorts who is a lot of ways just another iteration of the hard-boiled detective. There is the tough talking, the excessive drinking, the witty comments made in the face of danger, the slightly damaged psyche and the irresistibleness that makes just about every female character in the book end up in his bed at some point. And on the last point, maybe I'm becoming something of a (male) spinster-like prude in my nearing middle-ages (what would be the male term, bachelor doesn't work, but I've got my cat and I've got my books) but I'm starting to get a little annoyed when too much sex pops up in my books. Sex for sex sake in books is boring to me and feels more like the author projecting fantasies that (s)he would like to see happen in and letting the main character live them out. Not that any of the sex here is explicit or anything and it's probably just a reaction to having just read Edge, where every woman wants to throw themselves into the bed of the hero (but he gallantly doesn't take advantage of most of them!) but it is kind of a boring thing to just throw into a book when it doesn't do anything to add to the story or advance the plot or whatever a book is supposed to do. All of that complaining and whining aside, the book is a nice read and it moves along at a fairly good pace. I might have enjoyed it more if I had given it my full attention instead of reading it when it was convenient to have a mass-market with me to read, and when I didn't need the convenience of a mass-market I was reading other books at the time. And maybe this isn't the kind of book that should be spread out over two weeks time to finish But nothing in the book really ever grabbed me or made me think, wow I'd really like to read something more by the author. If I was more of a fan of mysteries I'd probably read something else by him, but instead my search will go on for another mystery/crime writer that I get a lot of enjoyment out of.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    Easy Rawlins is such a great character for a noir novel simply because Walter Mosley writes him with such a clear and unique voice. Even in this relatively disappointing follow-up to Devil in a Blue Dress he is highly enjoyable as a man primarily looking after himself in a series of intrigues, fights, double crosses and sexual encounters used as an exploration of race differences in American society in 1952. In this novel EVERYONE is the bad guy, including Easy. He might be looking to protect hims Easy Rawlins is such a great character for a noir novel simply because Walter Mosley writes him with such a clear and unique voice. Even in this relatively disappointing follow-up to Devil in a Blue Dress he is highly enjoyable as a man primarily looking after himself in a series of intrigues, fights, double crosses and sexual encounters used as an exploration of race differences in American society in 1952. In this novel EVERYONE is the bad guy, including Easy. He might be looking to protect himself first and foremost but he realises that it's not always the correct thing to do. This self righteousness mixed with self-loathing is pretty standard for the genre but I don't think I've ever come across it in so forthright a way. The ambiguous nature of the entire cast of characters works well with the theme of paranoia and 'red-baiting,' the reader can't trust anyone to be on Easy's side much in the same way Americans of the period grew to distrust everyone amid their fears of Communism I guess.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Toria

    Not as good as the first one and didn't really hook me like the first one but still an enjoyable series and I'm interested in what will happen next. Not as good as the first one and didn't really hook me like the first one but still an enjoyable series and I'm interested in what will happen next.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Wow, I love this series. Despite the plot being a little clunky, the action never slows. The second book in the Easy Rawlins series, this time it is 1953 and Easy is up to his neck in trouble with the IRS and the FBI is on his case to help them weed out communists in the local community of Watts. Mosley's real talent in this series is how he manages to portray the racial aspects of life as a black man in 1950s America; sadly highlighting how very little has changed. The dialogue is a joy and the Wow, I love this series. Despite the plot being a little clunky, the action never slows. The second book in the Easy Rawlins series, this time it is 1953 and Easy is up to his neck in trouble with the IRS and the FBI is on his case to help them weed out communists in the local community of Watts. Mosley's real talent in this series is how he manages to portray the racial aspects of life as a black man in 1950s America; sadly highlighting how very little has changed. The dialogue is a joy and the issues of racism, poverty and corruption are beautifully realised. Can't wait for the third in the series to arrive in the mail.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    Fair warning is due - it takes you a third of the way before this book takes fire and the ending (which shall not be revealed here) is the usual sub-Chandleresque rush of confused data that plays the same role, in this genre, as the 'deus ex machina' once did in courtly drama - BUT the core of the book is brilliant. Why is Mosley so good when he is good (and when he is not stuck in the usual problem of series writers that he has to recapitulate so much for late entrants)? Because he writes with p Fair warning is due - it takes you a third of the way before this book takes fire and the ending (which shall not be revealed here) is the usual sub-Chandleresque rush of confused data that plays the same role, in this genre, as the 'deus ex machina' once did in courtly drama - BUT the core of the book is brilliant. Why is Mosley so good when he is good (and when he is not stuck in the usual problem of series writers that he has to recapitulate so much for late entrants)? Because he writes with precision about a world that, although alien to non-Americans of any hue and only known by way of older men's reminiscences by younger American blacks, comes alive in his hands. Hue is an interesting aspect of the case here. I know of no white author who describes so frequently the precise tone of a man's skin. Mosley repeatedly and precisely gives you the skin tone of almost every non-white character in a way that defines his perceived character. He also describes the second skin - the clothes - in a way that makes you understand better how variation of costume was one means of differentiating a man from the crowd. Two FBI agents are indistinguishable ('twins') in dark uniforms and white skins but the ethnic communities are multi-coloured not only in skin tone but in dress. Then it hits you (as a non-black) - the agents of white society in their drab suits and white skin look alike in the way that we see aliens in movies look alike. Society, to the oppressed ethnic subject, is rule by conquering aliens and, of course, this trope has been used since in popular culture to show humans (invariably white) ruled by aliens in order to spread a message of violent gung-ho resistance to oppression. You can see Mosley moving his story line towards the world of Black Power in stages here but he matches this with his first 'Philadelphia' black cop. This black is certainly not fazed by his racist colleagues and, though a bit player, he hints at the other option for the black community - integration on equal terms and civil rights. This is done subtly so that you would scarcely notice. I always thought I understood the role of charismatic religion in black society but now I feel that I understand it - an education given so lightly as to be imperceptible. Nor does he compromise with a character whose morality is Chandler's but placed under conditions of oppression where the costs of goodness and integrity mean that you are likely not to survive for long if you are too precious. There are many subtleties in this book - not least the understated play on the experience of the holocaust for one of the protagonists (black-Jewish relations often being particularly fraught in more recent times) with a metaphor of the poisoning of red ants' nests coming across as surprisingly unheavy-handed. And, finally, beyond politics and religion, you have sex. Mosley at one point seems to be constantly rutting and this is subversive, given the 'moral' standards of contemporary white society. There is no guilt or shame in either him or the women - or in the society they live in. Mosley courageously does not worry about stereotyping but just lays out the lifestyle of this relatively young black male and lets the reader choose his stance. You realise that Philip Marlowe had it easy as a white man in a white society. While you may despair at our hero's tormented self-centredness at times, it is not for us to judge - even though not a few black 'resistance' heroes might want to string him up as the worst sort of exploitative petty capitalist on the make. The story is set in the period when America was witch-hunting Communists and the 'take' on the politics of the black community under these conditions is subtle. This is all you need to know about the story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    A step back in appeal for me after Devil in a Blue Dress , but still an interesting trip to the West Coast black ghetto in the fifties, at the height of the Communist witchhunt. Easy Rawlins is already established as the main character in this second mystery/thriller featuring him, so I expected some better pacing, easier to follow plot. It was instead a bit of a muddle with several separate murders that feel shoehorned / forced into one narrative. So what is really the connection between an appa A step back in appeal for me after Devil in a Blue Dress , but still an interesting trip to the West Coast black ghetto in the fifties, at the height of the Communist witchhunt. Easy Rawlins is already established as the main character in this second mystery/thriller featuring him, so I expected some better pacing, easier to follow plot. It was instead a bit of a muddle with several separate murders that feel shoehorned / forced into one narrative. So what is really the connection between an apparent suicide in one of Rawlins rented appartments, violence against the minister of a black church, the IRS and the hunt for a Jewish labor organizer? Read on to find out. Easy goes for about three quarters of the book from one place to another, more like a passive observer than an active investigator. Then, in the last quarter of the book he starts throwing (and receiving) punches, some bullets fly, and generally secrets are revealed in a convenient and timely manner. He's also quite a hit with the ladies who have only to look at him to fall at his feet. For all my criticism, the voice of Mr. Rawlins feels authentic, anchored in the harsh realities of being a man of color before the Civil Rights Movement gained traction. He is a tough man because he needs to survive on these mean streets, but he is using his brains more than his fists, and is capable of selfless gestures and kindness towards his neighbors and friends. His rants against the establishment, the police and in general against the White Man, are still present, but a bit toned down compared to the debut novel. Maybe his financial relative affluence has polished some of the more abrasive aspects of his personality. The secondary characters are less well defined. I struggled a bit following who is who, especially the Church deacons and the barroom population. I would say this book is OK for the fans of the author, interested in continuing with the series, but not so impresive on its own merits.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    The GR description says this is set in 1953. However, this was first published in 1991 and not especially in any 1950s style that I have read. Example: This is definitely not erotic, but there are more erections in the 275 or so pages than any 1950s novel would give you. Easy Rawlins was definitely more lusty here than I remember from Devil in a Blue Dress. It seems there are plenty of plot threads and I had a hard time keeping up with them. I wasn't alone. Easy didn't seem to see how everything The GR description says this is set in 1953. However, this was first published in 1991 and not especially in any 1950s style that I have read. Example: This is definitely not erotic, but there are more erections in the 275 or so pages than any 1950s novel would give you. Easy Rawlins was definitely more lusty here than I remember from Devil in a Blue Dress. It seems there are plenty of plot threads and I had a hard time keeping up with them. I wasn't alone. Easy didn't seem to see how everything fit together either. (And no, it wasn't all those erections - those were just side business. We both knew they had nothing to do with the IRS and the FBI and the First African church.) There was more dialogue than I remembered in Devil too. It is in dialect. Easy even mentions that he has enough education to talk more like white folk, but it's important to stay with who you are. I have to admit I was dismayed at the amount of racism. Not that I didn't know it went on back then, but following the summer of 2020, it felt more "in my face". Much has improved/changed since the 50s and 60s, thankfully. I'm sure I'll be up for another in the series, but I'll probably not volunteer for the onslaught soon. This is a strong 3-stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Malum

    An excellent Easy Rawlins mystery that has a lot of moving parts and complexity but avoids becoming too convoluted.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marty Fried

    I didn't like this as much as the first one, but it was still a good read. It was a bit complicated, especially for an audiobook, but not bad. What I like most about both so far is that it takes me to a world that is very different; a different time, different place, and a different culture. It's still very accessible and understandable, though. I didn't like this as much as the first one, but it was still a good read. It was a bit complicated, especially for an audiobook, but not bad. What I like most about both so far is that it takes me to a world that is very different; a different time, different place, and a different culture. It's still very accessible and understandable, though.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    So far, these Walter Mosley novels aren’t detective stories; they are crime and suspense stories. They are as brutal as Spillane, but Mosley’s black protagonist has criminals of all kinds and the white establishment of the time to battle. That means he cannot have a friend on the police force of the time and place; most of them hate him because he is black. His friends are black people, yet they live in a dangerous world where they have to protect themselves, sometimes from each, but almost alwa So far, these Walter Mosley novels aren’t detective stories; they are crime and suspense stories. They are as brutal as Spillane, but Mosley’s black protagonist has criminals of all kinds and the white establishment of the time to battle. That means he cannot have a friend on the police force of the time and place; most of them hate him because he is black. His friends are black people, yet they live in a dangerous world where they have to protect themselves, sometimes from each, but almost always from the white establishment. It’s very interesting.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    A long time ago I decided never again to read crime fiction written by a man. I was so disappointed by the James Patterson "Women's Murder Club" book that I read (I actually felt it was worse than Patricia Cornwall!), that I decided that was it. No more male writers. But there came a day when I needed a heck of a lot of mental distraction on my (hour-long) drive home from work, and when I went to the library I discovered that they had four Mosley audio books and another four or five *books* of hi A long time ago I decided never again to read crime fiction written by a man. I was so disappointed by the James Patterson "Women's Murder Club" book that I read (I actually felt it was worse than Patricia Cornwall!), that I decided that was it. No more male writers. But there came a day when I needed a heck of a lot of mental distraction on my (hour-long) drive home from work, and when I went to the library I discovered that they had four Mosley audio books and another four or five *books* of his. And as it was the only thing that looked vaguely interesting in the audio book section - and because it would count for 50books_poc - I decided to give Mosley a chance. Mosley's writing, and his character Easy Rawlins, remind me of Sara Paretsky and VI Warshawski, a favourite writer/character duo that I've been sorely missing of late. They've got the rough edges, the gritty cities, the edge to their stories that other writers don't quite match. Mosley is clearly a notch or two above James Patterson, although I don't know that I'd trust him to write a female pov character. His female characters are all just a little too much the sexual object, and not quite enough human being. (That said, I loved both Etta Mae and Shirley... and think either of them would have been the making of Easy.) I found myself liking and admiring Easy quite a bit: despite how much he despised himself, and despite the truth of his background. And I certainly did enjoy the resolution of the mystery. (Whether it's Mosley, or the rhythm used by the reader on the audio book, the odd thing is I can hear that same rhythm echoing through the words I write in this review. The rise and fall of that rich voice that I loved listening to for just over a week, morning and evening, to and from work.) I don't want to read (or listen to) too much Mosley too fast. I don't want to risk Patricia Cornwall syndrome. (I read every Cornwall book a housemate of mine owned in a single weekend while I was procrastinating on my honours thesis. Reading that many at a single gulp exposed the lack of creativity that Cornwall had in her storylines, and I've never brought myself to read another one since.) So I'll leave it a while before I pick another one up. But one day I certainly will. Especially those audio books.

  16. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    Unbelievably good. Constructed tight as a drum. Rawlins would have made an excellent Roman Patrician. His intelligence which works on three layers of reality at all times plus a ruthlessness worthy of a Julius Caesar helps him maneuver through so many circles - police, Black businessmen, Jewish concentration camp survivors, Black church institutional support, Latino businessmen, the IRS, FBI, murderous white prejudice - all while surviving the paranoid Communist hunting of the 1950's. When this Unbelievably good. Constructed tight as a drum. Rawlins would have made an excellent Roman Patrician. His intelligence which works on three layers of reality at all times plus a ruthlessness worthy of a Julius Caesar helps him maneuver through so many circles - police, Black businessmen, Jewish concentration camp survivors, Black church institutional support, Latino businessmen, the IRS, FBI, murderous white prejudice - all while surviving the paranoid Communist hunting of the 1950's. When this particular episode in his life begins Rawlins is attending school getting a degree, reading about the Roman Empire, attempting to build a future for himself by owning rundown apartment buildings and maintaining his own little house. His determination is awesome; however the lack of legitimate means of achieving success due to the powerful racial prejudices of America forces him to methods familiar to any ancient Roman citizen. He sees himself as a man forced to be bad by society but not as bad as he could be, and he is happy to be good and generous when he can. I totally agree with his usual clear vision of humanity. Rawlins IS a good man in a very harsh world. I love this series!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Mosley's great talent in his Easy Rawlins mysteries is how he gives his protagonist multiple voices and the ability to bend himself to the specific people he's interacting with, and this one's a particularly fine example as Easy's ability to slide in and out of different personas is crucial to his entanglement with the feds. Too often in mystery, authors oversimplify by creating characters who fall into that bluntly honest/call 'em like I see 'em mold that unfortunately robs them of depth and nu Mosley's great talent in his Easy Rawlins mysteries is how he gives his protagonist multiple voices and the ability to bend himself to the specific people he's interacting with, and this one's a particularly fine example as Easy's ability to slide in and out of different personas is crucial to his entanglement with the feds. Too often in mystery, authors oversimplify by creating characters who fall into that bluntly honest/call 'em like I see 'em mold that unfortunately robs them of depth and nuances. Easy doesn't play that game, and it's part of what makes his continuing adventures a reward for readers.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Boris Slocum

    A great follow-up to "Devil in a Blue Dress." The author sketches a keen, edgy, threadbare world whose central character is jaded but with a deep conscience. Side characters are complex and entertaining. The story of corruption and espionage just jumps out at you. It's a great deal of fun, but it has something important to say about the world. I highly recommend. A great follow-up to "Devil in a Blue Dress." The author sketches a keen, edgy, threadbare world whose central character is jaded but with a deep conscience. Side characters are complex and entertaining. The story of corruption and espionage just jumps out at you. It's a great deal of fun, but it has something important to say about the world. I highly recommend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    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 i 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

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rob Kitchin

    A Red Death is the second book in the Easy Rawlins series set in post-war Los Angeles. Easy has a habit of finding trouble and acting detective. In this outing he’s infiltrating a communist cell for the FBI in order to avoid a federal charge for tax evasion. When people connected to both his IRS charge and his FBI case start dying, it seems he’s swapped going to jail for non-payment of tax to going for murder. To add to his woes his personal life is a mess, starting an affair with EttaMae, the l A Red Death is the second book in the Easy Rawlins series set in post-war Los Angeles. Easy has a habit of finding trouble and acting detective. In this outing he’s infiltrating a communist cell for the FBI in order to avoid a federal charge for tax evasion. When people connected to both his IRS charge and his FBI case start dying, it seems he’s swapped going to jail for non-payment of tax to going for murder. To add to his woes his personal life is a mess, starting an affair with EttaMae, the love of his life and partner of his best friend. The strength of the tale is its portrayal of the African-American experience in post-war America (both the seamier, darker underbelly and respectable business and church communities) and every-day and institutional racism, the sense of place, and the character of Easy Rawlins. Easy is a complex man in which good and evil battle internally and he’s often the sinner using casual lies, deception, robbery and violence to make headway; while he has a moral compass of sorts helping people where he can, ultimately he prioritises protecting himself. Which is perhaps no surprise given the social circumstances of the poor, working class community he’s operating in, which is a dog-eat-dog world. Where the tale struggles a little is with regards to the plot, which felt a little to tangled with a number of subplots and dozens of characters being threaded together – a death in one of the apartments Easy owns; a IRS case against Easy; a FBI case into a communist cell; an extortion racket in a church; EttaMae and Mouse arriving in the city – each with its own sub-plots and twists. There’s plenty going on – scheming, violence, extortion, murder, sex - leaving Easy dazed and confused throughout much of the story. And so, to a degree, is the reader. Eventually it all comes together with a well disguised twist. Overall, an interesting and entertaining story that might have benefitted from less is more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    This is the first sequel to "Devil in a Blue Dress" and is a marked step down in quality. Still very enjoyable writing and great social commentary on what it meant to be a black man in Los Angeles in the 1950's but this time there was a bit too much commentary and a bit too little mystery. In fact, it kind of felt like Mosley forgot about the mystery and tacked on the mystery at the very end. Also, the final 'bad guy' was cartoonish and strange. Too many dangling threads were left out there for This is the first sequel to "Devil in a Blue Dress" and is a marked step down in quality. Still very enjoyable writing and great social commentary on what it meant to be a black man in Los Angeles in the 1950's but this time there was a bit too much commentary and a bit too little mystery. In fact, it kind of felt like Mosley forgot about the mystery and tacked on the mystery at the very end. Also, the final 'bad guy' was cartoonish and strange. Too many dangling threads were left out there for no discernible reason. That being said, the character development was fantastic and I'll definitely be checking in again with Easy Rawlins. "I didn't even believe in history, really. Real was what was happening to me right then. Real was a toothache and a man you trusted who did you dirt. Real was an empty stomach or a woman saying yes, or a woman saying no. Real was what you could feel. History felt like TV for me, it wasn't the great wave of mankind moving through an ocean of minutes and hours. It wasn't mankind getting better either; I had seen enough murder in Europe to know that the Nazis were even worse than the barbarians at Rome's gate. And even if I was in Rome they would have called me a barbarian; it was no different that day in Watts."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    Satisfying Easy Rawlins followup to his debut. Five years after the events in 'Devil In A Blue Dress,' you find Ezekiel 'Easy' Rawlins living a quiet life, keeping up his beloved house and having become a landlord to several properties acquired due to his financial gain from 1948. HIs world in Los Angeles is changing slightly with the McCarthy committee years. First, Easy is hit by the IRS, then by the FBI. He's between a rock and a hard place, but if he does what the FBI is asking then he will b Satisfying Easy Rawlins followup to his debut. Five years after the events in 'Devil In A Blue Dress,' you find Ezekiel 'Easy' Rawlins living a quiet life, keeping up his beloved house and having become a landlord to several properties acquired due to his financial gain from 1948. HIs world in Los Angeles is changing slightly with the McCarthy committee years. First, Easy is hit by the IRS, then by the FBI. He's between a rock and a hard place, but if he does what the FBI is asking then he will be given leniency with the IRS. The agencies are not working together, which builds up the drama. At the same time, Easy has personal issues between a death at one of the apartment complexes that he owns, a surprise visit by a woman and her child, who he knew back in Houston, and was married to his best friend at that time, and then the complications of trying to figure out who is a friend and who isn't both in his neighborhood of Watts, and his interactions with government and potential communists. Good read. Leading me further down this 'Easy Rawlins' rabbit hole. By the way, it really helps to listen to blues and jazz from the era as you read the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Stanley Bennett Clay is an excellent reader-- he does a fine job of bringing 50's Watts and its people alive for the listener. An interesting premise, to place Easy Rawlins, the protagonist, at the heart of the 50's red scare. Also compelling to examine/experience racism from the black point of view. I suppose this is intended to be crime fiction in the noir tradition: the authority figures (white people) are all bad, the women are all sex objects, and most of the characters are violent, reactiv Stanley Bennett Clay is an excellent reader-- he does a fine job of bringing 50's Watts and its people alive for the listener. An interesting premise, to place Easy Rawlins, the protagonist, at the heart of the 50's red scare. Also compelling to examine/experience racism from the black point of view. I suppose this is intended to be crime fiction in the noir tradition: the authority figures (white people) are all bad, the women are all sex objects, and most of the characters are violent, reactive types, a la Chandler? But it's difficult to feel too much sympathy for Easy in his self-created, tax-evading predicament. It seems that his "friends" don't like him much either, except for "Mouse" the sociopathic murderer... This might have been a better story if it explored more of the Hollywood blacklist angle; certainly could have used more character development. I've never read Walter Mosley, always wanted to, but not sure I will again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Not quite as strong as the later 'Little Scarlet', the only other Easy Rawlings novel I've read so far. It's a bit overpopulated for one thing and the narrative gets a little shapeless halfway through. The narrative voice is spot on though, down to earth and eloquent, with a dash of dark humour. '"God gives you what you earn, Mr. Rawlings." That seemed like a terrible curse coming from such a kind woman.' Moral ambiguity abounds as Easy and his associates seem every bit as villainous as the peop Not quite as strong as the later 'Little Scarlet', the only other Easy Rawlings novel I've read so far. It's a bit overpopulated for one thing and the narrative gets a little shapeless halfway through. The narrative voice is spot on though, down to earth and eloquent, with a dash of dark humour. '"God gives you what you earn, Mr. Rawlings." That seemed like a terrible curse coming from such a kind woman.' Moral ambiguity abounds as Easy and his associates seem every bit as villainous as the people who turn out to be the villains of the piece. Easy is sicced on a religious group with communist ties, but the people he is supposed to be investigating seem the least villainous of the lot. The thing about Easy's own complicity in dubious dealings is that it makes him capable of seeing the possibility of redemption for nearly anyone, even Mofass, who double-crossed him into this whole mess. A bit scattered, but on the whole very good.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laila (BigReadingLife)

    Normally I like to start a series at the beginning, but I couldn't get a copy of the first one and decided to just go with it. Mosley does a good job of filling the reader in on the back story. This one was interesting, very hardboiled/noir-ish, good setting in LA in the 1950s. Easy Rawlins is a complicated character, which I appreciate. It felt a bit sexist for me, though - all the women were "begging for it" a little too much. I'm trying to read more authors of color and I knew Mosley is a res Normally I like to start a series at the beginning, but I couldn't get a copy of the first one and decided to just go with it. Mosley does a good job of filling the reader in on the back story. This one was interesting, very hardboiled/noir-ish, good setting in LA in the 1950s. Easy Rawlins is a complicated character, which I appreciate. It felt a bit sexist for me, though - all the women were "begging for it" a little too much. I'm trying to read more authors of color and I knew Mosley is a respected writer with a lot of novels. I might read another one sometime and see if I like it better - maybe it was just this particular novel I didn't like.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    This second in the Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley is every bit as complicated and dangerous as Devil in the Blue Dress. Easy still has his nice little house in Watts, and now, thanks to the stolen money from the first case, he also has a couple of nice apartment buildings that nobody quite knows he owns since he pretends to be the janitor. Except, of course, that the IRS has gotten wise to him and decided to investigate. That's bad enough but things get even worse when the FBI shows up. Th This second in the Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley is every bit as complicated and dangerous as Devil in the Blue Dress. Easy still has his nice little house in Watts, and now, thanks to the stolen money from the first case, he also has a couple of nice apartment buildings that nobody quite knows he owns since he pretends to be the janitor. Except, of course, that the IRS has gotten wise to him and decided to investigate. That's bad enough but things get even worse when the FBI shows up. They'll get him off the hook if he just does this one little favor and investigate some communists for him down at the First African Baptist Church. Meanwhile, one of his tenants is found hanging from a rope in her bedroom. Suicide or murder? Things continue to get worse for Easy when EttaMae shows up at his house to get away from her ex-husband, Raymond, better known as Mouse, Easy's psychopathic best friend. It's complicated, especially since Easy has always loved EttaMae himself. The plot gets deeper, more complicated and ever more dangerous for Easy. Surrounded by trouble on all sides, he has to do some slick trading to manage to get out of this one all in one piece. The real beauty of a Walter Mosley novel is the atmosphere, of course, and here again is a perfect look of the postwar black community of Watts in LA. This time it's the 1950's and Mosley fills his world with a variety of wonderfully drawn characters, both black and white. This is a working poor community but not everyone here holds what you would call a "legitimate" job. There are gamblers, prostitutes, sure but there are also real estate men and bar owners, businessmen and cooks and waitresses. There are also white cops, some nice and some bigots and one black cop, subtly introduced without fanfare. These are also church going folks. In other words, a pretty normal world populated with Mosley's wonderfully drawn characters.

  27. 4 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    A man who solves problems is called in by the FBI to help them bring down a Communist, when the last thing he wants to do is hurt the man. Easy Rawlins is a good read, but a very boy one. You're not going to find women doing anything other than be mothers, wives, lays, and (in one case) a witch; the main character never interacts with them other than in their roles as parents or sexual partners. I mention this because of a certain plot twist where it looks like a woman might not be someone's love A man who solves problems is called in by the FBI to help them bring down a Communist, when the last thing he wants to do is hurt the man. Easy Rawlins is a good read, but a very boy one. You're not going to find women doing anything other than be mothers, wives, lays, and (in one case) a witch; the main character never interacts with them other than in their roles as parents or sexual partners. I mention this because of a certain plot twist where it looks like a woman might not be someone's lover--but no, plot twist, she was someone's lover the whole time. I can't be mad, because the way Easy sees the world only causes him heartbreak and problems with women, and indeed does so here, but I had to laugh when I read the plot twist. Recommended for mystery/crime readers who are looking for a historical mystery series, well written, great characters. Prepare for a few eyerolls reading about a man who hasn't quite grown up, but I think it'll lead somewhere.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin L

    It's always interesting reading literature about other cultures - in this case African Americans. It makes me question the belief that we're not that different. And I truly believe that cultures should be recognized and maintained, rather than merged into a great mass of humanity with no differences. That said, this book is interesting. I can't call it a fun read as it is gritty and darker than most of the mysteries I read. I do enjoy this series and I'll be continuing to read it as well as expan It's always interesting reading literature about other cultures - in this case African Americans. It makes me question the belief that we're not that different. And I truly believe that cultures should be recognized and maintained, rather than merged into a great mass of humanity with no differences. That said, this book is interesting. I can't call it a fun read as it is gritty and darker than most of the mysteries I read. I do enjoy this series and I'll be continuing to read it as well as expanding my horizons with more authors of color.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    It's hard to tell if I love the character Easy Rawlins best in this book or the way that the city of Los Angeles is a character in and of itself. The tension, the way you come to root for Easy, for his friend/nemesis Mouse and for the plight of these folks in such a discriminatory time, all come together to make this series one of my favorite. And, sadly, the social commentary is still in many ways all too needed in today's world. It's hard to tell if I love the character Easy Rawlins best in this book or the way that the city of Los Angeles is a character in and of itself. The tension, the way you come to root for Easy, for his friend/nemesis Mouse and for the plight of these folks in such a discriminatory time, all come together to make this series one of my favorite. And, sadly, the social commentary is still in many ways all too needed in today's world.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    Easy endures a punishing amount of violence in his attempt to keep the IRS away from his property and placate the FBI in an investigation of a suspected traitor volunteering at a local church. Also, he wrestles with a weighty existential crisis about whether he's lost his humanity. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight but enjoyed the returning characters from the first book (Jesus!) and was genuinely surprised by the ending. Easy endures a punishing amount of violence in his attempt to keep the IRS away from his property and placate the FBI in an investigation of a suspected traitor volunteering at a local church. Also, he wrestles with a weighty existential crisis about whether he's lost his humanity. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight but enjoyed the returning characters from the first book (Jesus!) and was genuinely surprised by the ending.

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