It’s 1969 and Easy Rawlins, if you can believe it, has reached the ripe old age of 49. The 15th Easy Rawlins mystery finds our eponymous hero in something of an upturn – he’s part of a detective agency, he’s living up in the hills with his daughter Feather in a sprawling if somewhat eccentric layout gifted him for the princely sum of a dollar a year and he’s as comfortable as he’s ever been. But that doesn’t mean that the daily experience of being a black man is any easier (and you’ll read Blood Grove and think, Jesus, the kinds of shit the police were pulling all those years ago hasn’t changed a bit).
What is changing, at least for Easy, is now the weight of years and all of his experiences get brought along with him. So when he’s approached by a Vietnam vet called Craig Killian to look into the possible murder of a black man called Alonzo, Easy can see “the Vietnam War with all its dead” behind Killian, and “Korea and Auschwitz, Nagasaki and ten thousand slave ships coming from the distant horizon over the African Sea” behind that. The rage that grips Easy from time to time is still there but he holds a tighter grip on the reins, a mere comeback these days enough to give most right minded people the sense that they had “just got [their] first whiff of wolf.” We’ve got all that, you might say. What is the case this time around? Well, Easy makes our work … well, easy, spelling it out for us roundabout the mid-way point: “two police departments, two dead bodies, maybe three more dead bodies, a gang of desperate heist men, a gangster, [and] a grieving mother”.
As has been the case with maybe the last half dozen Easy Rawlins mysteries, Mosley relies on you to do a lot of the hard work. Like Easy, he aint got time for fools. You pay attention. You listen to what you’re told. Even then, you might find yourself hopscotching back every once in a while to remind yourself how the links in the chain fit together. The grand scheme of Easy’s life, the people he has met, the favours he has accrued, the ever extended network of people he knows and favours, means that it serves you to remember from book to book what is happening (and the better you remember, the more you’ll enjoy things) – such that when you see Easy’s fearsome compadre Mouse start to read books, you’ll feel the same kind of surprise Easy does, and when Easy teams up with Fearless (the star of another series of Mosley books, described here as “like an avenging angel weighing sin”), you’ll get another frisson of pleasure. It’s also worth saying that by this point Mosley knows how to trot out aphoristic wisdom in a way that feels true and not the least bit hokey, a la:
“Every pig farmer knows that there ain’t no way to clean out a hogpen without gettin’ messed. But you cleanin’ it up and in the end you do the best you can. In the end the truth come out.”
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect to Blood Grove is that it feels to this reader that the older Easy gets, the better he gets, and the same rule applies to Mosley’s books. We’re looking forward to how Easy is going to roll throughout his 50s and hopefully into his 60s too.
Any Cop?: By this point, if you’re following the travails of Easy Rawlins you half know what to expect (at least in terms of quality) and Mosley doesn’t disappoint.