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#DiverseBookBloggers, book review, books, race

Book Review: Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

devil-in-a-blue-dress

This is one of my picks for #DiverseDetectives.

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#DiverseDectectives is an book blogging event through the month of October hosted by  @siliconphospho and @Bina_ReadThis. Through this month I am committed to read two mystery / detective novels featuring detectives of color and posting at least one review. Devil in a Blue Dress is my first pick for this event and I plan to also read The Case of the Missing Servant, a Vish Puri mystery by Tarquin Hall. There is still time for you all to jump in to join this awesome event!

Devil in a Blue Dress is the first book following Easy Rawlins, an unconventional and compelling detective. I think I have heard of author Walter Mosley of the Easy Rawlins series before, but until October of this year, I never had an urge to pick it up. Crime and mystery novels are not my first choice and maybe it is because my experiences with Agatha Cristie and her detective Hercule Poirot. I was never able to get into Hercule’s way of investigating and often found the mysteries to be dry and anti-climactic. When #DiverseDetecives was announced, I was excited to try different mystery novels, in particular Devil in a Blue Dress.

Easy is just a guy trying to get by. He was recently laid off from his job in a defense plant and he is worried about making his payment on his house. What I loved about how this book began was that Easy Rawlins is not a detective by trade. He needs money so he takes a job from a White man in a nice suit, asking Easy to find a woman, Miss Daphne Monet. Easy has a gut feeling to not take the job; however, if he does not find the money soon, he would most likely lose his property. In the first couple of chapters, it seems like a relatively easy (no pun intended) job, but Easy Rawlins is soon plunged into a twisted mystery. much more convoluted and much more dangerous than he initially anticipated. A string on murders, police investigations, the demand of his boss, and Easy’s desperate need for a job all haunt him throughout the story.

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Walter Mosley uses the backdrop of this mystery to start a commentary on race and power dynamics between Easy Rawlins, the police, and White men with money and power. In multiple scenes, Easy is pulled in by police for no apparent reason and questioned brutally about crimes he had no idea about. Also the power that the White men in the novel exert over Easy is frequent and disturbing. The one chapter that stands out to me is when Easy has to go into a White neighborhood in order to meet his contact in a park. A group of White teens start harassing Easy and probably would have physically assaulted him. The use of privilege in this part of the story by all of the White characters made me extremely uncomfortable and hit home so many points about race -> the segregation of neighborhoods, ability to commit violence with no consequences, antagonization of a Black man for no other reason besides his race.

The mystery itself was very compelling and engaging, in a very simplistic way. All Easy needed to do was find Daphne, but as the story unfolded, the reader learns the different motivations of the different power players in finding her. As I mentioned before, Easy is not a detective by trade and I loved seeing how that identity evolved in him as he got deeper into the mystery. He picked up different skills in deduction and detective work, sometimes making mistakes, and always coming out of dire situations. Easy feels like a real person, having real struggles and facing real consequences. Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Easy Rawlins and I plan to continue the series at some point.

Final Rating: 4.6/5

Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins, #1)

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Discussion

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

  1. I’m not a crime/mystery fan either (too impatient) but I didn’t mind Agatha Christie, though I’ve only tried one of her books so far. I tried Devil in Blue Dress when I was younger, but couldn’t get into it and haven’t tried any more of Mosley’s books. I think he’s also done some sci-fi too.

    Btw, I was surprised to see that you capitalize Black and White in your post because I don’t see many people do that. I always do it because we use the terms to refer to a group of people and sometimes their culture and not just the color of the people’s skin. Why is it you do it? (I’m just curious)

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Zezee | October 21, 2016, 2:16 PM
    • I capitalize identities in particular because (like you said) it is so much more than skin color or other physical features. To me racial/ethnic identity is VERY salient and I feel the need to point it out, particularly in how it relates to individual self-perception and systemic racism. For me, that means capitalizing it. I can describe the whiteness of the snow that just fell on the ground, but when talking about the power linked to Whiteness… there is just so much more there. I guess I see it as an entity, not a description.

      Thank you for stopping by and reading my review!

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Brendon | October 23, 2016, 1:09 PM
  2. I’m not much of a detective fic reader but I’m always open to trying a genre out. Walter Mosley was on my TBR but this makes me more curious to check out his work someday too.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Glaiza | October 22, 2016, 11:37 PM
  3. Devil in the Blue Dress seems to be one of the more popular Diverse Detectives books out there. I think I’d enjoy it based off your review.
    I also don’t read thrillers or mysteries regularly but I enjoy them when I do pick one up. They’re so fast-paced, exciting, and the clever ones are so fun! I just finished my book for Diverse Detectives. It was Cosmic Callisto Caprica & The Missing Rings Of Saturn. I thought it was delightful! Now I want to read more. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Read Diverse Books | October 23, 2016, 3:17 AM
  4. I don’t typically read mysteries because I have a hard time following clues that lead me to the end. If the author is really good at throwing in clues meant to mislead me, well, forget about it!

    Like

    Posted by Grab the Lapels | October 24, 2016, 4:10 PM
  5. Yay great review and thanks for participating!😊 Especially since it’s not your fave genre. I love cozy crime as comfort read especially Christie, but not her racism obv.
    Sad I didn’t get to this one, but I’ll read it soon. Love that je presents these struggled and racism, I’m curious how Moseley does with gender.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Bina | November 1, 2016, 3:03 PM
    • There was not a lot of gender diversity in this book. There were minor characters who were women, but besides Daphne Monet, these characters were in the background. I think there are definitely sexist themes in the book, whether consciously or subconsciously added, such as women seen as objects or possessions and a brief account of violence against women.

      I wonder how Easy will evolve as a character and how race, gender, and other identities are handled moving forward.

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Brendon | November 1, 2016, 5:53 PM

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