Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

One of the things I noticed when I started reading crime fiction (especially old noir books) is that the authors and the characters are very white and very male. There are femme fatales but the stories are mainly told from white man’s point of view. I knew there was a need for diversity in my reading list. Though reading Walter Mosley might have been partly a diversity pick, it was more because Mosley’s books are highly rated and respected within and outside the mystery community. But I needed to get out of my rut of reading books by white men, so, yes, diversity helped push Mosley up to the top of my To Be Read list. Nothing wrong with that, especially after reading Devil in a Blue Dress.

The first paragraph introduces us to Easy Rawlins:

I was surprised to see a white man walk into Joppy’s bar. It’s not just that he was white but he wore and off-white linen suit and shirt with a Panama straw hat and bone shoes over flashing white silk socks. His skin was smooth and pale with just a few freckles. One lick of strawberry-blond hair escaped from the band of his hat. He stopped in the doorway, filling it with his large frame, and surveyed the room with pale eyes; not the color I’d ever seen in a man’s eyes. When he looked at me I felt a thrill of fear, but that went away quickly because I was used to white people by 1948.

This sets a tone which reminds us of different black and white worlds of Los Angeles are in the late 40s. Easy, an out-of-work mechanic, is offered a job to find a woman, a white woman who frequents the black bars in Los Angeles, places that the white man normally cannot visit. Easy’s instincts have him say no, but upcoming house payments and the lack of work in the foreseeable future makes him say yes.

Devil in a Blue Dress takes us through black City of Angels with some frightening stops for Rawlins in white sections. It’s a journey through a time and place, we thought we knew. Though the backdrop of Devil in a Blue Dress is very important, the writing of Mosley and the mystery are equally enjoyable. I look forward to reading the rest of the Easy Rawlins series as well as other books by Mosley.

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