Fans of Easy Rawlins will probably be upset somewhat by this book, though you have to read all the way to the last page to find out why I say that. You won’t hear it from me. For most of the book Mosley gives us Easy in his usual incarnation–a streetwise detective who is both too sensitive and too intellectual to be messing around in the criminal world. He quotes Shakespeare and Hegel as he goes about trying to help the innocent distressed and punish the iniquitous distressers. He broods (“I sat in front of the dark TV, thinking about whiskey and how good it once tasted.), kicks himself around (“I was a fool”), makes mistakes (I should have called.), but he never gives up. And despite the brutes he hangs out with, he never loses his basic humanity. In return, the world tends to treat him kindly. Even as a black man in 1967, he has garnered a couple of well-placed white friends who treat him as an equal or a better.
And the Rawlins setting is always interesting. Moseley made the brilliant choice back in 1995 of putting his man in the 50’s/60’s (Blonde Faith is in 1967), so we see a man living through the transition from a world of segregation to a new era of race relations. Granted that L.A. never had the de Jure segregation of the south, but there was still plenty of room for discrimination in housing, seating, walking, buying, and on and on. Easy Rawlins enjoys breaking through some of the old barriers even as he finds that, though weakened, they are for all practical purposes still ubiquitously in place. In terms of his society, he’s almost but not quite a man, which inflicts upon him and his fellow Negroes everything from inconvenience to agony to death. Blonde Faith is in both concept and title largely about that transition and about how everyone is coping with it. Often not so well.
Rawlins solves a number of mysteries in this book, mysteries both romantic and murderous. The mystery he’s never quite able to solve is himself. And, as he might say, who ever does that?