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And Sometimes I Wonder About You: A Leonid McGill Mystery


And Sometimes I Wonder About You: A Leonid McGill Mystery

Leonid McGill, Walter Mosley’s private detective, is the narrator and star of AND SOMETIMES I WONDER ABOUT YOU. LT, or Lee, or Pops, or Trot --- he has many names --- killed his first man when he was 14 years old and burned the body with a kerosene fire; it was an act of self-defense, but he’s sure the police wouldn’t see it that way. His survival and the skills he learned on the streets early in life serve him well now in his mid-50s. The honey badger is his favorite mammal, and the description is succinct: a squat brute with exceptionally thick skin, powerful long claws, and always looking for trouble. The badger spends his days trampling through the world, killing, digging up corpses and defying even lions. He’s always in danger, and danger is always in him. The honey badger and LT are one. LT rises early, he holds his cards close to his chest, and his instincts are seldom wrong.

He is also aware. Perhaps that awareness is LT’s most endearing and enduring trait in this, his fifth novel. He is completely in tune with the world around him, and the reader has total trust in this ability to judge and act. He has three major cases to resolve as he travels from his New York City home to his Manhattan office to Washington, DC, to Philadelphia, to Boston.

The book opens with LT on the Philly-to-Penn Station local, where a beautiful woman chooses him (well, he is actually her second choice) to save her from a tall, olive-skinned man following her. She must rely on his boxer’s agility and street savvy to get her safely to the Hotel Brown after she explains that her ex-fiancée wants his $118,000 engagement ring back. There’s more to that story.

He returns to his office early the next morning, and a penniless, homeless Hiram Stent is waiting for him with a hapless, hopeless story of his search for a young woman, a distant cousin he’s never met. LT gives advice to the non-existent class he’d like to teach on being a PI: never take a case like Stent’s. And he does not. But Stent’s murder the following morning forces him to reconsider.

"Frenetic might be too strong a label for the novel, but it comes close. For this reader, the pauses are what make it interesting and worth marking the pages."

The final and most gruesome case centers on a fiend named Jones who runs a violent crime machine from beneath New York City streets; his young minions are brought into service by the very organization created to help troubled youth and adolescents. Once indoctrinated into service with a GPS installed behind the knee, there is no escape for the children. Twill, one of LT’s sons who also works as a private detective, has joined this huge underground army and now needs his pop’s aid saving lives --- his own and many others.

Although the cases do not actually intertwine, LT must manage each set of dangers and villains, and also needs to outmaneuver the intentions to murder, maim, overthrow, kidnap, mutilate and otherwise cause great harm to the people entrusted to his care.

Frenetic might be too strong a label for the novel, but it comes close. For this reader, the pauses are what make it interesting and worth marking the pages. Mosley understands the pace of American life, and captures and records the ways that we live today: in snippets, in sound bites, in seconds-long phone calls. LT is ridiculously adept at multi-tasking. And it is in this rapid pace and shotgun diction that he tells the story.

Somehow in the quiet moments when LT is eating breakfast at 4:30 am and reading a newspaper, or when he is on the train for hours playing a magnificently slow game of chess with Johnny, it becomes clear that he is a hero. A true American, for-this-day hero. He knows himself. He remarks upon his perceived limitations (every male LT meets is scaled against his own 5’6”) and identifies his strengths. He relied upon his memory of a very tough childhood, and now relies upon the very tough acquaintances made when he was the danger in New York City. His sources for information and shelter for the ones in his care comprise the underbelly of the city, as well as some characters living in mansions, drinking coffee at Penn Station, and hacking computers in brownstones on the Upper West Side.

After being attacked by and then disarming the olive-skinned stalker, LT pauses for a minute. He says that the “most important moments of my life had nothing to do with intelligence or insight. I was a brute among brutes…this thought comforted me; it allowed that Fate was my master and not free will.” This is an odd but apparently satisfying rationale for a man intent on creating his own destiny.

The father who LT missed and longed for appears as he is turning the key into his apartment door. His father is hatless, wearing a windbreaker that was worn and dirty. LT says, “I thought you was in the wind, man,” but he cannot show surprise. His father explains why he abandoned his family and has come back. LT’s acceptance of this unfamiliar parent gives him the satisfaction of solving “the most important case of his career.” He also accepts that there are no happy endings or burst of rockets, but only truth. That was enough.

The final scene is the wedding of LT’s best friend in the boxing ring at his gym, and it captures the richness of the novel. There are streamers and flowers and pastel silks. A live jazz quintet. Boxers in borrowed suits. Sitting beside his half-Asian daughter, LT sobs. He says it’s the biggest surprise he’d had all week. And somehow, truth be told --- and LT almost always tells the truth --- the sweetness of this moment makes me believe, too.

Reviewed by Jane Krebs on May 21, 2015

And Sometimes I Wonder About You: A Leonid McGill Mystery
by Walter Mosley

  • Publication Date: April 19, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
  • ISBN-10: 0804172099
  • ISBN-13: 9780804172097