Little, Brown, Jan 2004, 22.95, 248 pp.
Charles Blakey can claim American descendents back to the seventeenth century that would make many DAR members envious except that his ancestors were free blacks. He lives in the same house as seven generations of Blakeys have in Sag Harbor, New York, but feels more like an aimless wastrel when he looks back at his ancestor's accomplishments. Currently, he needs money or soon he will be displaced from his family home.
Wealthy white male Anniston Bennet offers Charles $50,000 for two months if he stays locked in the basement of the Blakey home. Reluctantly, Blakely accepts though he cannot understand his renter's motive. As he cleans out his basement, Charles learns from dealer Narciss Gully that he can make more money selling valuable family antiques. Still he proceeds with the deal somewhat fascinated by his cellar dweller's apparent need for redemption through punishment for a transgression involving his deceased uncle. However these sixty days lead the two men to strangely bond as both try to flee from their respective pasts, but are learning you cannot truly rewrite history only reinterpret haunting events.
THE MAN IN MY BASEMENT is a different type of tale than the Easy Rawlins or Fearless Jones mysteries. Walter Mosley provides a deep parable that makes the reader consider abstract concepts: responsibility and accountability of the individual to society, family and self; personal guilt over one's actions and how to attain salvation in a winking society that typically spins wallpaper of wealthy indiscretion. The lead couple is a fascinating duo whose relationship constantly changes, but foremost this terrific tale is a philosopher's stone of ideas coaxing the reader to introspective pondering.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner