Disclaimer, Rose Gold is the thirteenth book in the Easy Rawlins Mysteries series, which in hindsight wasn’t a good place to start. Easy’s relationships with many characters began in earlier books and some of his past experiences from those books affect him in this one. I have no doubt that starting at the end has cost me some understanding and confusion and I’m mindful of that.
I’m fairly new to the Mystery genre, this week’s challenge (2018 Reading Challenge). I’ve started mysteries where the detective/coroner/journalist tries to solve the case while ruthless entities pursue them. I felt obligated to search for clues as if I were required to turn in my hypothesis at the end of the book. It never occurred to me sit back and let the story unfold as with other genres. Enter Easy Rawlins.
Mosley takes us to 1967 Los Angeles. Vietnam rages, police corruption looms, the Civil Rights Movement spotlights racial inequity. But Easy’s just trying to start a new life for himself and his adopted daughter, Feather. Special Assistant Frisk arrives to disrupt his peace. Frisk needs help on a case involving Rosemary Goldsmith, the missing daughter of Foster Goldsmith, a powerful armaments dealer (and political contributor).
Like a lot of young people tired of the corruption and cruelty of the old guard, Rosemary sympathizes with the revolutionary counter culture, moving up the ranks in certain circles.
The real mystery: Is she the perfect hostage commanding a hefty ransom or the brilliant architect of an extortion scheme?
They need Easy, a black man, because Rosemary’s supposed kidnapper is a young black boxer named Bob Mantle who’s reinvented himself as Uhuru Nolice, the leader of the militant group Scorched Earth. The plan is to find Rosemary through Nolice and find Nolice through Easy. And so the adventure begins.
As he tries to sort out the mystery he meets a slew of interesting characters ranging from helpful to dangerous. He always keeps his cool and gets himself in and out of dangerous situations with street smarts and charm.
The fun comes from Mosley’s writing style. While his descriptions are poetic they paint a clear picture of the character:
“Sixty or more, that face had seen a hundred thousand punches coming and avoided maybe two.”
“Somewhere in his thirties, the man had dark eyes that seemed to contain centuries.”
“She lived in a realm where true knowledge passed between those that were a part of history, not subjects to it.”
Descriptive enough to put you in the scene but not burdened with unnecessary detail, I never felt like I was being overloaded with too much information about characters and locations. The number of characters did prove a tad daunting. However, Mosley infuses each with unique qualities that set them apart from each other. Most of the characters only stay long enough to serve their purpose then disappear, so I didn’t have to keep them in my mental inventory.
Rose Gold could be considered historical fiction given Mosely’s skill at weaving the social and political upheaval of the time throughout the story. While some could argue that Los Angeles is a character in this book, I would say that this particular era is a presence that touches every character action and reaction. While some stories have a timeless quality, Rose Gold could only unfold in 1967 Los Angeles.