This is my fourth Walter Mosley book and I am in for many more. I had previously read Devil in a Blue Dress, the first in the Easy Rawlins series, and the weird and compelling The Man in My Basement. I also recently read his writing manual, This Year You Write Your Novel. The Man in My Basement is one I’ll be reading several more times, I’m sure. I’ll also be reading more of the Rawlins books. But first, I suspect I’ll be going forward with more books featuring the private detective, Leonid McGill, of which this is the first. As much as I enjoyed Devil, this and The Man In My Basement are what really pushed me over the edge with him.
McGill lives in what feels like one long ethical dilemma more than a series of them. He’s an amateur boxer who could have gone pro, in a marriage that is not exactly working but weirdly calibrated to keep him in it, and trying to get away from a past of skirting the morally dubious to outright wrong side of the PI profession he once trafficked in. There is “the one honest cop” in New York who has vowed to put him behind bars and the swank office building, in which his business punches above its weight, is trying to find a reason to kick him out. Then the people he’s investigating start getting murdered.
This seems like pretty standard noir fare, but Mosley’s command of language and mood make this something special. The bone deep weariness and inability to find a way out of the ethical morass he’s trudging through really made this sing for me. Each character seems believable and acts in a believable way. An online friend described the mood of the McGill books as a “surreal purgatory,” which description seems apt. I suspect I’ll read through these (and maybe the Socrates Fortlaw books) and the standalone The Fortunate Son first, but I may end up reading most, if not all, of Mosley’s work.
On the border between Highly Recommended and Canon Worthy.