Racial tensions and America's civil rights movement have previously figured into Walter Mosley's series about sometimes-sleuth Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins. But Bad Boy Brawly Brown
turns what had been a background element into compelling surface tension. The year is 1964, and though Easy seems settled into honest work as a Los Angeles custodian, he's having other problems--notably, his adopted son's wish to quit school and lingering remorse over the death (in A Little Yellow Dog
) of his homicidal crony, Raymond "Mouse" Alexander. Yet he remains willing to do "favors" for folks in need. So, when Alva Torres comes to him, worried that her son, Brawly Brown, will get into trouble running with black revolutionaries, Easy agrees to find the young man and "somehow ... get him back home." His first day on the job, however, Rawlins stumbles across Alva's ex-husband--murdered--and he's soon dodging police, trying to connect a black activist's demise to a weapons cache, and exposing years of betrayal that have made Brawly an ideal pawn in disastrous plans.
Mosley's portrayal of L.A.'s mid-20th-century racial divide is far from simplistic, with winners and sinners on both sides. He also does a better-than-usual job here of plot pacing, with less need to rush a solution at the end. But it is Easy Rawlins's evolution that's most intriguing in Brawly Brown. A man determined to curb his violent and distrustful tendencies, Easy finds himself, at 44, having finally come to peace with his life, just when the peace around him is at such tremendous risk. --J. Kingston Pierce
From Publishers Weekly
Finally. Five years after the last taste (1997's Gone Fishin') and six years after the last full meal (1996's A Little Yellow Dog), Easy Rawlins makes a very welcome return. Now 44 years old, Easy no longer makes a living from doing people "favors." Now he owns a house, works for the Board of Education in Los Angeles and is father to a teenage son, Jesus, and a young daughter, Feather. It's 1964, and while some things have changed, the process is slow and uncertain. Too slow for some, including Brawly Brown, the son of Alva, the girlfriend of Easy's friend, John. Hotheaded Brawly has become involved with a group calling itself the Urban Revolutionary Party, and John and Alva fear the group's unspoken aim is violence and revenge. Friendship and loyalty being still sacred to Easy, he agrees, as a favor, to try to locate and talk to Brawly. As usual, Easy's path is not easy. When a body surfaces, Easy finds himself in the middle of a vicious puzzle where lives are cheap and death the easiest solution. As always, Mosley illuminates time and place with a precision few writers can match whatever genre they choose. He also delivers a rousing good story and continues to captivate with characters readers have grown to love, including the now "dead" Mouse, who still plays an important role in Easy's chronicle.
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