Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

CHARCOAL JOE by Walter Mosley


I love Walter Mosley’s characters and stories. I remember when he was going to quit writing the Easy Rawlins books and I was disappointed. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and Easy’s uneasy journey continues in the restless 1960s of Los Angeles.

Charcoal Joe is an interesting book. According to the cover copy, Easy is supposed to be looking into a murder involving a young black man who was found standing over the body of a white man. Not an easy thing to explain back in the 1960s, or now for that matter.

The most interesting aspect of the book, in my opinion, is all the changes Easy has undergone since the last novel. He’s part of a detective agency he and a couple friends have set up, is more financially secure than he’s ever been, and is finally able to forgive Bonnie Shay for betraying him (I wasn’t).

The novel seems to be as much about showcasing Easy’s life as it is about investigating this murder. He cycles through the usual list of suspects, touching base with them so that longtime readers can see what those characters are currently doing, and waxing eloquent on 1960s Los Angeles as he treads those mean streets. I remember growing up in those times, though in small towns in Oklahoma, but the stories were in all the newspapers and people were talking about all the violence ready to spill over into the streets.

I got a little lost along the way a few times as Easy moved from plot thread to plot thread, and I figured out the mystery before the solution was given, but close enough to the end that I felt rewarded for my cleverness. The novel is easy to read because Mosley narrates the tale in short, quick scenes with lots of dialogue. I enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to the next one.

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