Monday, March 1, 2021

Walter Mosley, Blood Grove

Walter Mosley, Blood Grove
Copyright © 2021 The Thing Itself, Inc.
Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company

Ezekiel (Easy) Rawlins is, in 1969, a success, running his own investigations firm (with a handful of employees), driving in a Rolls Royce (not his but collateral for payment), and with a teenage step-daughter.  As it happens, everyone else in the agency is out of the office when Craig Killian, a veteran of the war in Viet Nam and suffering the after-effects of his time there, comes in, to ask for Rawlins’ help.  He’s afraid that he may have killed a man in a blood orange grove and he needs to know.  Rawlins, who had served in World War II, in the ETO, and who knows what traumas can linger, takes the case.

Rawlins narrates the events, from what might be years after the events.  And it is a complicated story.  In addition to this investigation, he’s responsible for his adopted teenage daughter Feather, and has to cope with her (early 20s uncle Milo showing up).  And that’s not the end of the complications, which include the LAPD (which does not come off well—and, from everything I have read about the LAPD in the 1960s and later, is deserved).

And “complicated” is perhaps an understatement.  The cast of characters is large and varied, and Mosley handles it well.  The investigation itself—which turns out to involve an armored-car heist (and, it seems, the murder of the guards) of something around a half a million dollars (about $4 million, these days, adjusted for inflation).  His client dies, but he feels an obligation to continue the investigation.  He is threatened by a…well, I guess psychotic mob boss is perhaps the best description, for one thing.  And even finding a thread to begin his investigation seems all but impossible.

Maybe not a masterpiece, but a book I found hard to put down, and people who will, for good or evil, remain in my memory.  This pretty well sums things up:  “Every now and then I think that the closest I ever came to death was at the hands of that woman.  She was a nearly perfect predator in a world that scared the shit out of me.”