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Another Easy Rawlins Gem
on June 2, 2002
Though Devil in a Blue Dress and A Red Death are great reads which stand apart from other books in the genre White Butterfly might be the best Easy Rawlins story. Like Ross Macdonald, Walter Mosley weaves a tapestry of pain and heartache and human frailty into White Butterfly. Along the way we get to revisit the friendship of Mouse and Easy and again we learn that there are degrees of right and wrong.
It is only the killing of a white girl which prompts the police to ask for Easy's help. There was no hurry when only black girls were getting murdered in the Los Angeles of 1956. It is the last thing Easy wants as he has a woman named Regina and a child in his life now. Yet he can not give all of himself to them and holds back from telling Regina about his life and his property and where he gets his money.
Mosley has tightly written a character who though good also is flawed and wrestles with his own life and motives as much as he does with the cops and bad guys. We understand why Easy is more comfortable with the amoral Mouse than with the rest of society. You do not have to be black to appreciate the complex moral landscape Mosley paints of Easy's world. You feel Easy's personal loss at the end of this book and it stays with you longer than the mystery.
If Ross Macdonald wrote like a slumming angel then Mosley writes like an angel of the slums. He doesn't try to make us understand Easy's world, only lets us ride along with Easy as he attempts to make sense of it all himself. In the struggle we learn about pain and sorrow and regret, which is to say we learn about life. Reading this book will make you want more of Easy and more of Walter Mosley.