Rose Gold: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
The names Walter Mosley and Easy Rawlins are almost synonymous. When you think of one, the other immediately comes to mind. Thus it is easy to forget and somewhat startling to remember that this series contains only 13 installments. I say “only” due to the volume of Mosley’s output unrelated to these books, which includes everything from mystery novels and science fiction to nonfiction and reference works. It is with Easy Rawlins, though, that Mosley has made his bones, and his latest, which contains some of his best writing to date, is an excellent example of why.
Mosley has been chronicling the life of the quietly intrepid Easy Rawlins starting with DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, which featured Easy’s first case in 1948, moving forward in time at a studious pace. ROSE GOLD takes place in 1967, very shortly after Easy’s near-death experience in BLONDE FAITH and his reappearance in LITTLE GREEN. Though we didn’t grow up in the same patch, Mosley and I did come of age in the same time period and during the same events. As a result, I am of the opinion that his more recent books, set in the 1960s and within his memory and life experience as a young man at the time, present his sharpest perspective. To put it another way: He wasn’t around in 1948, but certainly was in the mid- to late-1960s, so his character is shot through with what undoubtedly was firsthand experience. 1967 was a tumultuous time, politically and culturally, and ROSE GOLD will take you there with both feet. I felt as if I was moving back in time, for better and worse, as I read it.
"1967 was a tumultuous time, politically and culturally, and ROSE GOLD will take you there with both feet. I felt as if I was moving back in time, for better and worse, as I read it."
ROSE GOLD kicks off unassumingly enough, with Easy’s move into a new home quietly interrupted by a visit from the LAPD in the form of Roger Frisk (a great name for a cop), who is straight from the police chief’s office. Frisk’s purpose is not to bring Easy trouble (not directly, anyway), but to discuss a business proposition with him. A young woman named Rosemary Goldsmith, who happens to be the daughter of a wealthy and influential weapons manufacturer, has gone missing from her college dormitory at UC Santa Barbara. Her father received a message demanding ransom money, among other things, in exchange for her safe return. The problem is that Barbara had been keeping company with a self-styled black revolutionary named Uhuru Nolice; the thinking is that either he kidnapped her, or Barbara is in league with Nolice in extorting money from her father. The LAPD believes that Easy, due to his contacts in the black community, has the best chance of ascertaining the truth behind the apparent kidnapping and ransom demand.
There are problems, of course. A sudden and violent attack on Easy occurs almost immediately, while various departments of the Federal government seem bent on making him back off as well. Easy isn’t easily deterred --- he needs the significant amount of money he’s been promised by Frisk --- and strikes a deal for information with a down-and-out but still useful ally in exchange for locating another woman who has seemingly vanished out of the man’s world. Easy also somewhat reluctantly gets involved in the hunt for a small child who is at the center of a sensitive domestic situation where touchy issues concerning racial heritage may be at the center. As one might expect, nothing is quite as it seems. By the book’s conclusion, the only thing that is certain is what was promised at the beginning: change is in the air.
The various plot threads are slightly less complex than those presented in some of Mosley’s other works, and the narrative moves a bit more briskly here than in, say, CINNAMON KISS. And while comparisons between some of the events here and those of the Patty Hearst case (which occurred some years later, in 1974) are inevitable, do not necessarily plan on using those real-world events to predict what occurs in the novel. You’ll be doubly surprised otherwise, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All things considered, I’m not sure if ROSE GOLD is Mosley’s best book ever, but it certainly is my favorite, even at this advanced stage of his career.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 26, 2014