An African American man in the late 1940's takes a dangerous job to save his most loved possession, his home. This is a murder mystery set in Los Angeles a few years after the end of World War II.
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The book's main protagonist is Ezekiel Rawlins, an African American veteran of World War II, who goes by the name of “Easy.” Easy is the rarest of things, he is an African American homeowner.
The story opens with Easy gainfully employed and easily able to pay off the mortgage on his little house, with the yard, that he treasures and adores. However, Easy's gainfully employed status quickly changes for the worst, which threatens continued ownership of his beloved home. This sends Easy on a desperate search for employment in order that he might keep his small home, yard and peace of mind.
After a short search for employment, a friend of Easy's, who owns a local bar, Joppy, introduces Easy to a white man, Mr. Albright. Albright is a shady character, at odds with “law and order.” He offers Easy a ‘small job,' to discover the whereabouts of a white woman named Daphne Monet, for a man named Todd Carter. It is rumored, that Ms. Monet enjoys African American Speakeasys (bars that were illegal during prohibition) and the company African American men. These are places, that are generally off-limits to white men. Easy is ‘uneasy' about taking the job as he has a good idea of the type of man that Albright is and, to date, has not fancied himself as a ‘detective.' The under-the-table-cash, however, will allow Easy to keep his home for just a little while longer. Easy accepts the job.
Easy begins his search for Ms. Monet in a local speakeasy, where he starts asking if any of its patrons knows of a “Ms. Monet.” Having no luck Easy sits with several friends, among them are Dupree, a long time friend from Texas, and Coretta, a beautiful African American woman, who is Dupree's girlfriend. Easy then asks whether anyone at the table knows of Ms. Monet. No one does.
Towards the end of the night, Dupree has passed out. Coretta asks Easy why he's looking for the white woman, Daphne Monet. This, of course, peaks Easy attention, as he's simply looking for a payday.
Later that night, after Easy has helped Coretta to bring home an unconscious Dupree, Easy and Coretta have sex in the livingroom. Dupree snores loudly in another room. Coretta eventually tells Easy that she knows Daphne, Ms. Monet, and that she can be found living with a man named Frank Green. Easy leaves for home to get a bit of rest.
Later that day, Easy receives a call from Albright, who wants to meet up with Easy to find out what if anything Easy has discovered concerning Daphne Monet. At the meeting Easy tells Albright about the boyfriend, Frank Green, who Albright has some information on. Easy also provides the address given him by Coretta. Albright pays Easy for the information.
That night when Easy returns home two detectives approach and arrest him for suspected murder. Easy is taken to the LAPD station and after a “good cop, bad cop” interrogation/beating, Easy is told by the detectives, that he is the prime suspect in a recent murder. The murder of Correta. Several hours later he is released.
But things are only getting started for Easy. Later that night as Easy walks home from the police station a black limousine pulls up beside him. The driver exits the vehicle and informs Easy that the car's occupant, a Mr. Terrill, wants to speak with him. The name comforts Easy, as Terrill is a high-profile figure currently engaged in the cities mayoral race. Mr Terrill knew Coretta, and expresses his condolences. He then asks about Daphne Monet. Easy has nothing to tell him. Satisfied with the answer Terrill has the driver stop the car and Easy is let out.
A phone call in the middle of the night wakes Easy from a bad dream. It's Ms. Monet and she want to see Easy. They arrange to meet in the white Only section of a hotel, where easy will be surreptitiously let in by a bellboy.
A short time later Easy arrives at Ms. Monet's suite to find an incredibly stunning brunette beauty. Daphne and Easy talk about Coretta and once she believe that Easy is ‘honorable' she asks Easy to be taken to Todd Carter, for whom Albright is supposedly working. However, Daphne asks Easy to make one stop before being delivered to Mr. Carter. The stop is to the home of her friend Richard.
When Easy and Daphne arrive at Richard's home they find him face down in a large, congealed bloodstain. Daphne horrified by the sight rushes from the home, takes Richard's car and leaves Easy in what is a white Only neighborhood.
Easy finally makes his way home only to find Albright and two of his henchmen, who are more than a little relaxed in his home. Easy is infuriated that they have let themselves into his home and proceeds to let them know about just how mad he is. Albright, however, is unhappy as the address that Easy had given him was wrong. He threatens Easy with a knife less than an inch from Easy's eye. Easy either tells him the truth or Easy goes eyeless. Easy does, informing Albright of what has just occurred at Richard's home. Albright believes him.
Easy's potentially life threatening encounter with Albright and his goons convinces Easy to call a friend, Mouse. Mouse, like Albright, is at the opposite end of “law and order.” Easy also decides to visit Todd Carter, a very wealthy man, for whom Albright is working, to get to the bottom of things.
Easy meets with Mr. Carter only to learn that Mr. Carter does not know Albright and has not sent anyone looking for Daphne. But he does want to find her and he hires Easy to bring her back to him.
When Easy returns home, Frank Green armed with a straight razor is looking for Easy and looking to do great damage to Easy. The two men fight and Frank Green and his knife are about to have their way with Easy. That is until the long barrel of a gun is placed at Frank's head by Mouse. Frank relents and though Mouse would like to kill Frank, he only wounds Frank, at which point Frank bolts. Easy now has his hired gun.
Moments later our two LAPD detectives are at Easy's front door. This time they are inquiring about the murder of a Mr. McGhee, Richard McGhee, who they believe Easy may be tied to as well. After another round of “good cop, bad cop” Easy says he will help them solve the murder.
Easy and Mouse set out to find what is going on. They discover that Coretta has a letter given to her by Richard McGhee. Further they discover that this letter is in one of Coretta's prized possessions, her bible. In short they pay a visit to Dupree and surreptitiously ‘lift' the letter from Coretta's bible. And suddenly things begin to get a lot more clear.
There in the letter are pictures of a young Matthew Terrill in very compromising positions with naked children. Of course, an exposure of this kind would forever end Terrill's political ambitions and possibly find him taking up residence in the nearest penitentiary. Albright is working for Terrill.
Easy returns home, leaving a very drunk Mouse in another part of town. Easy enters his home to find Daphne waiting for him. Daphne is scared and visibly upset. Easy informs Daphne that he has the pictures of Terrill. Daphne tells Easy, that she is African American passing for white, which is what Terrill has over her and those pictures are what she'll have over him. Easy also finds out from Daphne that Joppy killed Coretta. Daphne desperately wants the pictures and offers to pay Easy $7,000. But before the transaction takes place, Albright and his goons show up. Albright's goons give Easy a good beating, but they are careful not to kill him, as he will take the rap for the deaths of Coretta and Mr. McGhee. They kidnap Daphne.
Easy meets up with Mouse and together they kidnap Joppy and force Joppy to disclose where Albright has taken Daphne. Joppy relents for fear of his life and the three set off to find Daphne.
Easy and Mouse confront Albright and his goons, who are holding and interrogating Daphne. A gunfight ensues and Easy and Mouse dispose of Albright and his goons is short order. Mouse also kills Joppy, despite Easy asking him not to.
Easy delivers Daphne to Todd Carter. Daphne is certain, that since she has the pictures of Terrill, that Terrill can no longer blackmail Carter for wanting to marry an African American woman or Daphne for being African American. Daphne, however, misjudges Todd's love for her as he will still not marry her. The color-line in mid twentieth century America is too strong.
The movie ends as Easy brings Daphne, or Ruby, to her brother, Frank Green's home, Mouse leaves for Texas, the cops pass by Easy's home, unable to do anything and Easy takes care of his beloved home. Easy, it appears, also plans to become a detective and make a few investments with the money ($7,000 from Daphne for the pictures and $1,000 from Todd Carter) gained from his adventure.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved the characters, the setting, the historical perspective with regard to 'race' relations in the mid 20th century.
Best scene in story:
Easy, the main protagonist, meets for the first time Daphne Monet, the woman he's been charged to find. There is powerful chemistry that comes to life through Walter Mosley's words.
Opinion about the main character:
He down to earth, straight-forward, everyday-man manner.