Little, Brown, Jul 2004, 24.95, 320 pp.
In 1965, the riots have devastated Los Angeles, but Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins knows that atrocities will follow as some of the mom and pop storeowners will lose more than their livelihood in the aftermath. As he tries to keep a friend Theodore Steinman safe, LAPD Detective Suggs demands that Easy come with him or face arrest for practicing private sleuthing without a license, not that a Negro will be granted such a permit. Though he insists that he is just a custodian at Sojourner Truth JHS who also does Research and Delivery, Easy knows he has no choice but to accompany the cop.
Suggs, Captain Fleck, and Deputy Chief Jordan show Easy the corpse of scarlet haired Nola Payne, whom they claim is victim #34 of a killer. The cops also say that the suspected culprit was seen entering the apartment building where the murder of Little Scarlet occurred. Because of the riots, the brass wants white cops to keep their presence to a minimum to avoid inciting further disturbances. Thus, Jordan drafts Easy to find the culprit before others are killed.
LITTLE SCARLET is a terrific private investigator tale that is enhanced by the insightful look at the 1965-Watts riots. The story line moves fast along two interconnecting plots as the audience follows Easy with Mouse's assistance search for the vanished prime suspect to a backdrop of a raging populace that come to life as only Walter Mosley can achieve. It is the historical perspective that makes for a gripping tale that readers will appreciate and have to come expect from one of the best authors of any genre over the five or so.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner