Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins has few illusions about the world--at least not about the world of a young black veteran in the late 1940s in Southern California. His stint in the Army didn't do anything to dissuade him from his belief that justice doesn't come cheap, especially for men like him. "I thought there might be some justice for a black man if he had money to grease it," Easy says. Fired from his job on the line at an aircraft plant, he's in danger of losing his home, symbol of his tenuous hold on middle class status. That's a good enough reason to accept a white man's offer to pay him for finding a beautiful, mysterious Frenchwoman named Daphne Monet, last seen in the company of a well-known gangster. Easy's search takes the reader to an L.A. few writers have shown us before--the mean streets of South Central, the after-hours joints in dirty basement clubs, the cheap hotels and furnished rooms, the places people go when they don't want to be found. Evocative of a past time, and told in a style that's reminiscent of Hammet and Chandler, yet uniquely his own, Mosley's depiction of an inherently decent man in a violent world of intrigue and corruption rang up big sales when it was published in 1990 (although the movie version, with Denzel Washington as Easy, never found the audience it deserved). The minor characters are deftly and brilliantly developed, especially Mouse, who saves Easy's life even as he draws him deeper into the mystery of Daphne Monet. Like many of Mosley's characters, Mouse makes a return appearance in the succeeding Easy Rawlins mysteries, such as A Red Death, Black Betty, and Mass Market Paperback edition.
Los Angeles, 1948: Easy Rawlins is a black war veteran just fired from his job at a defense plant. Easy is drinking in a friend's bar, wondering how he'll meet his mortgage, when a white man in a linen suit walks in, offering good money if Easy will simply locate Miss Daphne Money, a blonde beauty known to frequent black jazz clubs....
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: Murder and Temptation in 1948 Los Angeles, August 1, 2003 Reviewer: mira430 from McLean, VA United States "Devil in a Blue Dress" takes the reader to post-War Los Angeles, a city burgeoning with new industry and opportunity in 1948. The hero is Ezekiel "Easy" Rollins, a war veteran who came to L.A. for sunshine and good jobs, but now finds himself laid off and in danger of losing his home. A friend introduces him to a sleazy character named DeWitt Albright, who offers Easy the opportunity to make some money fast. Albright is looking for a woman named Daphne Monet. In a city that is largely socially segregated, Miss Monet, who is white, frequents black night clubs and has black friends -some of the same clubs and friends as Easy. Whether in desperation or out of pride, Easy accepts the job and sets out to find her. His search takes him on a tour of the city's shadows: underground jazz clubs, bootleggers and blackmailers, political corruption, and finally to the irresistible and mysterious Daphne Monet. "Devil in a Blue Dress" is a pleasant, brisk read. Walter Mosley paints a colorful and intriguing picture of post-War Los Angeles. And his prose effectively expresses the fear and temptation that constantly compete for Easy Rollins' psyche. Easy Rollins is a working class detective who is lent a certain romanticism and distinction by the time and place in which the novel is set. This combination of qualities make Easy an ideal detective novel protagonist who will appeal to a wide array of readers. The character of Daphne Monet is less than believable, I'm afraid. But it is more essential that she be sexy and mysterious than that she be believed, so it is not a serious flaw. "Devil in a Blue Dress" has a little of everything -a likable hero, period ambiance, hard-boiled dialogue, sex, violence, mystery- without losing its focus. It won't appeal to fans of "cozies ", but most mystery buffs will find something enjoyable in it. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition