Written by Walter Mosley — New York PI Leonid Trotter McGill has a chaotic personal life. His wife is lying in a care home, broken and depressed as a result of years of mutual betrayal and infidelity. His brother is serving a life term in an Indiania prison. His son is out there, somewhere in the city, mixing with God knows who. His father – who left his children and a fatally ill wife so many years ago – is about to make a reappearance. Amid all this human carnage, McGill has to make a living, and one of his many talents is finding people who don’t want to be found.
When a dirt poor former office manager turns up asking for help, McGill can almost smell the hopelessness on the man. Hiram Stent has been cast adrift by the world, but has a forlorn hope of a scheme to earn a huge reward for finding a missing woman. McGill turns him down and the man with the cheap suit and worn out shoes trudges away. The detective is already feeling some cop heat after rescuing a damsel in distress (and then taking her to bed) but life gets even more complicated when intruders blast their way into his office, killing a security guard as they do so. There’s even more misery for McGill when he learns that Hiram Stent has been brutally stabbed to death in an alley. McGill turns his considerable mind – and muscle – to avenging Stent’s lonely death, but in doing so he puts himself and his extended family at serious risk of harm.
Walter Mosley’s plot is as complex and labyrinthine as anything constructed by Raymond Chandler. We have McGill falling hopelessly for the damsel – who is the source of much distress, rather than the victim – a missing book which is priceless because of a confession hidden within its pages, an elusive former stripper, and a latter day Fagin who rules a criminal empire staffed by children and hidden deep in the New York subways. This plot meanders at times, rather like a winding track through the woods. We don’t always know where we are headed, but the trees sometimes thin out to reveal startling sights – some beautiful, some threatening and ugly.
No-one alive writes like Mosley. He is a multi-talented man of letters, but is unique in that he weaves poetry into every page of crime fiction that he creates. Some of his descriptions are simply brilliant:'”Mr McGill,’ she said. It wasn’t quite a friendly greeting. Asha wasn’t the kind of woman to smile and fawn; she came from the guffaw and fuck, drink yourself senseless and die finishing school for young women.”
McGill is different from Mosley’s other two heroes Easy Rawlins and Socrates Fortlow. They are, like McGill, black men, but they are from another era, where racism isn’t just everyday, it is in their faces and implicit in every conversation they have with the authorities. But McGill is relatively wealthy and lives in Obama’s America. Most of the racism he faces is infinitely more subtle, and worn more like an old scar than a fresh wound. The title? It remains an enigma to the end, but with the exotic femme fatale Marella, the ruthless killer known only as Hush, and the deadly gang boss known only as Jones, Mosley certainly throws out characters for us to wonder about. This is Mosley at his best, with not one word wasted, and a story which will leave you with much to think about.
You can read our 2013 interview with Walter Mosley here.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
CFL Rating: 5 Stars