The classic noir beginning is, "A gorgeous dame walked into my office..." This one begins with a white man walking into a bar. That beginning signals both that the world of the novel isn't the usual white one... and that the job the white man offers will be just as tangled and deceptive as the one offered by the usual dame.

A modern classic noir, complete with cynical detective, femme fatale, excellent prose, and a beautifully depicted 1948 Los Angeles in which the sun always shines and corruption and violence lurk around every corner.

The detective is black WWII vet Easy Rawlins, here embarking on his very first case. He's young but not innocent; the war and life as a black man in a white folks' world took care of that. But he does have a mortgage to pay...

One of my very favorite things about this novel was Mosley's way with genre conventions as refracted through a non-white perspective. The usual unmarked-white world of noir becomes unmarked-black. In a moment that's hilarious if you've read enough old racist mysteries in which the hero thinks something like, "That's the third time a Chinaman has been mentioned in relation to the murder - something is up!" Rawlins becomes suspicious when white people keep turning up. And the social evil in this novel is not the general miasma of corruption of Dashiell Hammett or the family dysfunction of Ross MacDonald, but racism.

I don't think I ever fully understood why everyone was killing everyone else or who all had double-crossed each other, but the extreme complexity of the plot is also classic noir. (Supposedly in some Hammett novel, the author himself couldn't tell who committed one of the murders.) But I don't read noir for plot, but for atmosphere, character, and prose. All three are fantastic here. As a bonus, it's a lot less misogynist than most noir, and not all the women who have sex end up dead.

Thanks to [ profile] faithhopetricks for the rec!

Buy it from Amazon: Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries)

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