Easy Rawlins is back in Walter Mosley's tenth novel in the series and is better than ever. He is so polished, shrewd, cool in the best sense of the word and altogether human. This time he is faced with every parent's nightmare, the possibility of a young child's dying from a rare illness. Most of the action is about his efforts-- by whatever means available-- to raise the necessary cash for expensive treatment for his daughter Feather in a hospital in Switzerland. Easy's woman Bonnie-- or is she?-- is back, along with his buddy Mouse and a host of other characters we remember from earlier novels. Mr. Mosley is nothing if not creative and we'd better not take him for granted. This is evident in the way this story ends; we see that Easy will go in a different direction in the next novel in the series.
As always, Mr. Mosley writes in concise, precise understated language. He is introspective about race in these United States in the 1960's-- sadly sometimes it seems as if little has changed since then-- without being didactic. He through Easy makes profound statements about the world: having a sense of humor is the best test of intelligence, black men who kill innocent people in far-away countries are no better than the whites who lynched blacks. Finally in Easy's own words when he and Mouse, as they are making a call from a phone booth, are approached by two white cops and questioned: "Most Americans wouldn't understand why two well-dressed men would have to explain why they were standing on a public street. But most Americans cannot comprehend the scrutiny that black people have been under since the days we were dragged here in bondage."
Even though Mr. Mosley always writes about race his characters are not just black and white. He has as many ways to describe skin color as Eskimos have of names for snow. In addition to just "brown," there is "medium brown," "toasted brown," "coffee brown," "high brown like a polished pecan," "light brown sugar," "sepia hue." Then we have "light-skinned," "sandpaper toned," and "high-yellow." Darker colors go from "walnut shelled," "almost jet skin," "dark-colored," the "color of tree bark," "dark-skinned," "very black,"-- and my favorite-- "skin black as an undertaker's shoes." Finally there are the reddish tones: "reddish-brown plantain" skin, "reddish hue," "terra cotta colored" and of course the beautiful character Cinnamon Cargill whose skin is described as "cinnamon red."
It is such a pleasure to read a new Rawlins mystery. Easy in a beautiful passage describes missing Bonnie and loneliness. "Never before could I fully trust another human being. If it was five in the morning and I'd been out all night I could call her [Bonnie] and she'd be there as fast as she could. . . Being with her made me understand how lonely I'd been for all my wandering years. But being alone again made me feel that I was back in the company of an old friend." Reading Mosley is just like being with an old friend. I have never read a better mystery writer.
on November 28, 2005
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, 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' 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 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 Heather's treatment.
However, salvation comes from another direction, 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 avoids 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, 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.
on January 10, 2006
CINNAMON KISS opens with Easy Rawlins struggling with the thought of robbing an armored car in order to provide his daughter, Feather an expensive medical treatment. Though Easy has operated outside the law before, this "sure thing" his friend Mouse has presented him with provides Easy a considerable amount of angst.
Then another friend, Saul Lynx,(William H. Macy in my movie version--HA!) offers Easy a more palatable job investigating the disappearance of an eccentric attorney whose assistant of sorts, the beautiful and mysterious Philomena "Cinnamon" Cargill, is gone as well. Easy's new employer, Robert Lee, is as suspect as the man who disappeared.
In CINNAMON KISS Mosley deftly takes the reader on a journey from the hate and racism of World War II Germany to free love and acid trippin' in California's Haight-Ashbury in the 1960's.
This smart, witty novel is WM at his best. It's a perfect mystery that pulls the reader in from the opening scene and drops him right into the action---and there's plenty of it---with memorable characters (Christmas Black and old favorites Mouse and Blue) and believable storylines that blend to make this a perfectly enjoyable read. This is the best Easy Rawlins novel I've read in a long time. CK would make an excellent movie and I hope it's brought to the screen.
ChocolateSleuth.com Rating: 5 Handcuffs.
Oh, yeah...the end saddened me about Easy's love relationship. This book has everything. I was totally satisfied.
on September 22, 2006
Others have explained the plot and talked about how much they
liked or disliked the story of _Cinnamon Kiss_. I'll skip that
here and write instead about my reaction to the character of Easy
I've read almost all of the Easy Rawlins stories. Easy is the
same difficult, ambiguous man in each of them. He's tough and
street smart, but he's also haunted by memories of a difficult
southern childhood, of battles with both Germans and white
Americans in World War II, and of things he's done that he's not
He's not a likeable man. He's not an easy man to deal with.
He's stubborn to the point of self-destructiveness. He pisses
off the only man who can save him or give him the money he needs
to save his daughter, simply because he can't stop himself from
asserting his equality with anyone. He turns down help he
desparately needs from a wealthy white woman who means well,
simply because he is too proud to expose his need and ask for
help. He has to do things his way, and only his way.
He is attracted to, and attractive to, women, but he doesn't
understand them and is unable to form permanent relationships.
He cares desparately about his children but is not altogether
able to understand them either. He lives in a sort of permanent
conflict with the world - never quite able to find peace.
Some reviewers here have disliked Rawlins for his sexism, or
loved him for his cool, his bravado, his excitement.
I can't really say I either like him or dislike him. He's too
difficult a person to really like, and too genuine to dislike. I
couldn't live the way he lives. I'm sure I couldn't walk in his
He's a man with great strength, but with jagged edges and sharp
I don't believe we need to like a character to find him
fascinating and to want to read about him. Easy Rawlins is not a
man I'd want to live next door to. But he is a fascinating man.
Walter Mosley has a gift for creating characters that stand
outside the boundaries of ordinary middle class life. They are
men who can look at, but never enter into, the ordinary life.
They try to blend in, but they can't. It's not in them to be
satisfied, stable, ordinary men.
Easy Rawlins, Raymond Alexander, Socrates Fortlow (from another
Mosley series), and others are such characters. They give the
stories an edge that many other mysteries never achieve. They
are a main reason why I read these books.
You've got to love Easy Rawlins. A Houston-born veteran of World War II relocated to South Central L.A., Ezekiel Rawlins has spent twenty years and several previous novels building a life for himself based on ambition, intelligence, integrity, common sense and "family values". In the unsettled world he inhabits, this combination of traits easily makes him, as one character in this story observes, "the most dangerous man in any room you're in."
As the story opens, Easy faces a personal crisis. His adopted daughter needs expensive medical care, which means that Easy must put his hands on some cash, quickly. Two opportunities present themselves. Raymond Alexander -- one of the most intriguing characters in crime fiction -- offers Easy the chance to participate in a well-planned armed robbery in Texas. Alternatively, a detective colleague needs help on a missing person assignment from a shadowy employer in San Francisco. Easy chooses the second, straighter path. Of course, the ensuing twists, turns and homicides make the armed robbery look like an afternoon walk in the park.
Mosley is at the top of his game in this novel. Easy continues to grow and confront issues of love and family. The characters with whom he surrounds himself -- at least those who have survived -- also seem to have mellowed somewhat with age. Previous books in the series have seen Easy "solving problems for people" against a changing social background that has included the rise of black militantism and the Watts riots. This story takes place in the Vietnam era, where Apocalypse Now meets the Age of Aquarius. However, the focus remains where the action is: the inner motivations of complex characters doing what it takes to get by in the world.
This subject matter never grows stale. Readers can delight in the continuation of this finely conceived and well-executed series of detective stories that capture the flavor of recent black cultural history and remind us that nobility is found in many places.
on August 22, 2006
I've read a few Mosley books over the years and I've been a fan of his in many ways. In particular, I think he does a great job of putting the reader into the skin of a black man in America. Easy isn't always easy to get along with, but through him Mosley has a keen eye for the injustices stemming from race. That's his strong point, and it's the thing that usually gives his novels depth beyond the crime/mystery element that fuels them.
Cinnamon Kiss, however, is a lesser example of Mosley's skills. Part of my problem is that the sexism that's usually an aspect of Mosley's work gets a little too much air time in this one. Easy can barely turn around without bumping into a hot woman, one that looks him over and, one way or another, flashes him a flirtatious invitation. Several times in this book he gets down and dirty with women who - despite the drama and turmoil that's supposed to be driving this - just can't help but go after some Easy loving. At the same time, Easy is unforgiveably cruel to his long time partner for an infidelity that - among other things - was about saving his daughter's life.
Part of my problem with this is just that I like Easy Rawlins a whole lot less in this novel than I have before. Yes, there are still moments of brilliance, but there are too many missteps, especially as Mosley deals with hippies and with alternative lifestyles of the sixties. Not his strongest. And I do say that with respect for the man's work. I just wouldn't want somebody to pick this up as their first exposure to Walter Mosley's work. He's better than this. At least, on occasion he is. So if you're new to him seek out something stronger, like Little Scarlett.
on September 20, 2005
In 1968 Los Angeles with the Watts riot over but fresh in everyone's minds Easy Rawlins needs money to take his beloved daughter Feather to the specialized Bonatelle Clinic in Switzerland; the cost is $35,000. At the Cox Bar, his pal Mouse suggests they hold up an armored vehicle, but after almost running over a mother with babies, Easy decides that is to dangerous of an approach to gaining the money especially since he is over the edge and fears everything will go wrong and then his daughter will have nobody.
Instead he obtains work from a white friend, private investigator Saul Lynx who gets him a job in San Francisco with mysterious sleuth Robert E. Lee to locate two missing persons for $10K. Though expecting treachery as no one outside of entertainment pays a black man with cash, Easy searches for wealthy attorney Axel Bowers and his assistant lover, Cinnamon Cargill, who have vanished.
The easy Rawlins late 1960s tales are some of the best historical suspense thrillers on the market over the past few years. CINNAMON KISS is a terrific tale that once again showcases the lot of a black man in 1968 California while providing a deep light on the period. Easy is fabulous struggling to send his beloved child to Europe for treatment that is not available in L.A. If you have not read his adventures you are missing a treat because his escapades are enlightening and entertaining.
on September 23, 2005
I finished Walter Mosely's latest book (Cinnamon Kiss) a few days ago and I'm still reeling from the effect it had on me. It's hard to believe that each Easy Rawlins book continues to be better than the last.
The story line is excellent and the writing tight (for Mr. Mosley, who can sometimes get caught up in descriptions, but I guess when it comes to mystery writing it is important to give the details). This one is not quite as violent as some of the others but it has all of the drama Mosley readers have come to know and enjoy. You can also count on visits from your favorite old friends: Mouse, Primo, Jackson Blue, Etta etc. as well meeting a few new ones. These secondary characters are indeed dynamic in their own right and second to none.
The thing that makes Easy Rawlins one of the greatest characters to ever grace the page is his humanity. Although he is the quintessential hero; helping others during their greatest times of need, Easy Rawlins underneath it all, is just a man. A man suffering from doubt, heartache and a heart felt desire to do right, in spite of the fact that right is rarely done to him. It is his constant internal struggle that gives this character and these books depth, and that special something to take them past good to extraordinary.
If you are new to the on going saga of the most famous African -American private detective in modern literature, do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to Easy. You'll be so happy you did. If you are among the millions who have been initiated into the world of the Easy Rawlins Mysteries, why are you wasting time reading reviews, go out and cop this book now! Believe it or not, it may well be the best of series yet.
African-American private detective Easy Rawlings needs twenty-five thousand dollars in a hurry. His beautiful daughter is dying and a Swiss clinic may have the cure, but they want their money. He's even considering an armored car robbery, set up through his friend Mouse--although he's kept relatively straight for years. When another friend, white detective Saul calls him with a job that might pay ten thousand dollars to find a missing person, he jumps at the chance. The missing person is dead, but Easy learns that there is more than just a missing person--old bonds and an old letter offer evidence that an American company provided war materials to Hitler during World War II. Murders have been committed to protect less--and a paid assassin seems to have involved himself.
Author Walter Mosley writes convincingly of the 1960s--mostly in Watts, as that neighborhood remains in shock from the riots that destroyed virtually every business in town, but also in Berkley and San Francisco at the hopeful dawn of the hippie movement. Mosley manages a skillful balance between insight into a man's life and the mystery itself. Easy finds himself relying on his friends, worrying about women, inexplicably attractive to multiple women, and earning the grudging respect of a detective he wishes he didn't like.
Easy Rawlings is a fascinating protagonist, and CINAMMON KISS is a delight to read both because of the insights it provides into the African-American community, and the insights it provides into humanity. Mosley's strong writing drags the reader into the story and makes this a hard book to put down. I have no hesitation in recommending CINAMMON KISS.
The mystery is almost secondary to the latest Easy Rawlins mystery. Instead, the focus is placed squarely on Easy and his troubles and what he'll do or won't do to solve them. Faced with adopted daughter Feather's life-threatening illness, Easy momentarily considers taking part in an armored-car heist with friend, Mouse, before cooler heads prevail and he finds himself in hippie-rich San Francisco, aiding PI friend Saul Lynx. Still, he can't put Feather and her troubles out of his mind. Plus, there's something about his girlfriend, Bonnie, that keeps nagging at him. Easy's sad and depressed throughout much of the novel, though he also has several moments of insight into the wide variety of friendships he's developed over the years: there's the psychotic Mouse, who would literally do anything for him; there's con man/genius Jackson Blue, newly settled into a respectable job with a bank; there's Saul Lynx, his white PI friend, married to a black woman and facing realities of that situation in 1966 California. There's also the newly-introduced Christmas Black and his adopted daughter, Easter Dawn. Black's a former black-ops soldier, newly returned from Vietnam, where he killed one villager too many. Black's someone even Mouse instinctively respects and I wouldn't be surprised to see him make an appearance in subsequent books. Indeed, male friendship seems to be one of the dominant themes in the book and how it helps Easy get through his trials and tribulations. This is a series that got off to a strong start at the very beginning and just gets richer and richer as time goes by. Highly recommended.