Award-winning mystery/crime novelist and essayist Walter Mosley made millions of fans sad over six years ago when it seemed he had killed his greatest creation, LA private eye Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins.
Mosley seemed disenchanted at the time with Rawlins, even saying in interviews he didn’t think he had any more stories for the character. He even created a new series featuring one-time mob enforcer turned hero Leonid McGill.
But fortunately, Mosley changed his mind. The 13th Easy Rawlins chronicle “Little Green” (Doubleday) brings him back from near death (literally) thanks to longtime best friend and partner Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, a loyal if also often homicidal ally. The novel updates their adventures, bringing them into 1967, with some major changes in Rawlins’ life.
He’s now a licensed private eye, with a well-placed friend on the LA police force who enables him to minimize their interference and harassment in his cases. He can now freely carry a gun, and both his home and family have grown over the years.
The book’s early chapters cover Rawlins’ physical recovery, as he struggles to regain the necessary strength and stamina for his work. After his car plunged over a cliff at the end of “Blond Faith,” most observers assumed he was dead. But Mouse wasn’t among them, and he’s the person who rescues Rawlins’ from the wreck and brings him back to safety and medical care.
Once Rawlins has regained a measure of health, thanks in large part to an elixir he’s gotten from the conjure woman Mama Jo (one of many fascinating characters who return throughout “Little Green”), he takes a new case that’s partly fueled by his desire to repay Mouse for saving his life.
A young black man named Evander Little Green is missing. He was last seen taking acid somewhere on the Sunset Strip. Mouse has a connection with both Green and his mother dating back many years. Eventually Rawlins also discovers a link between Green and his very first case (covered in Mosley’s debut Rawlins’ novel “Devil In A Blue Dress”).
The investigation takes Rawlins deep into the emerging hippie and psychedelic scenes of that era. He witnesses both its charm (evocations of peace and racial harmony) and ugliness (rampant drug abuse, sexual mistreatment of minors, a disdain for personal property and hygiene). What seemed a simple missing persons’ case subsequently plunges him into situations involving multiple murders, robbery and family secrets.
The Rawlins/Mouse relationship is rivaled in modern crime fiction only by the Spenser/Hawk partnership detailed in Robert B. Parker’s long-running Spenser series. Rawlins’ doesn’t rely on deductive reasoning as much as character analysis of his subjects. Mouse supplies muscle and connections. Rawlins depends on his resourceful nature and relentless determination to solve cases, no matter where they lead or who is involved.
“Little Green” updates Easy Rawlins’ adventures with style, wit, and flamboyance. Mosley’s fast-paced storytelling leads to another explosive conclusion. But this time, the case’s resolution leaves no doubt Easy will return at a later date. That’s something to celebrate.