Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile writers laboring in the
field of modern fiction. Best known for his mysteries concerning
Los Angeles private investigator Easy Rawlins, Mosley is not afraid
to turn his talents to other genres as his whimsy takes him,
whether it be non-specific genre fiction, fantasy, or essays.
Rawlins, however, remains Mosley's most popular character from a
commercial standpoint. Part hard-boiled, part historical fiction,
part…something else, the book, like Mosley, defies easy
classification. Rawlins moves through mid-20th century America part
invisible man, part very visible man, a good man in a very bad
world who is aware that survival depends on compromise but who
ultimately remains true to himself.
CINNAMON KISS, Mosley's latest Easy Rawlins novel, is set in the
mid-1960s. It is the Summer of Love, but Rawlins's concerns are
much more basic. His daughter, Feather, is in need of immediate
medical treatment that costs much more money than Rawlins could beg
for or borrow. When Mouse, Rawlins's erstwhile friend and
occasional partner, approaches him with the prospect of a heist
with minimal risk and a large payoff, Rawlins is tempted to
compromise his principles for the greater good of financing
Salvation comes from another direction, however, when Rawlins's
friend Saul Lynx approaches him with a more legitimate offer.
Robert Lee, an enigmatic private investigator in San Francisco, has
been hired to locate Axel Bowers, a prominent Bay-area attorney,
and his assistant, the beautiful and mysterious Cinnamon Cargill.
Bowers and Cargill have gone missing with some documents belonging
to Lee's client, who is willing to pay dearly to get them back.
Rawlins is able to find Bowers easily enough, but Cargill has
seemingly vanished into the wind. In his search for Cargill,
Rawlins learns that he is not only racing against the clock but
also against a deadly assassin whose name is enough to cause even
the most dangerous of men to exercise caution. Rawlins soon learns
that he is a part of something far more extensive than a document
retrieval matter, and that his involvement is bringing not only
himself but also his friends and family into terrible danger.
CINNAMON KISS is perhaps the most ambitious of Mosley's Rawlins
novels, and arguably his best. He eschews the overly complex
plotting that has occasionally overtaken some of his other fine
work, and instead chooses to focus on his always interesting and
multi-dimensional characters. There are enough of them here to fill
three books. One of the most interesting is Robert Lee, who could
be the basis for a series all by himself. Mosley's description of
the man and his home are worth the price of admission alone, and it
would be quite interesting to see Lee's and Mosley's paths cross
uneasily a time or two again.
And, as with other Rawlins novels, CINNAMON KISS concludes with
some resolutions and some beginnings, the better to prepare the
legion of readers of this fine series for the next volume. It can't
come too soon.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 27, 2010