In Walter Mosley's last Easy Rawlins novel, Little Green (see my review here), Mama Jo had brought Easy back from the dead, and he investigated the disappearance of a young black man who'd been led astray by hippies and LSD. It's still 1967, Easy's still alive, and moving into a big new house with his children had left him somewhat vulnerable when he's approached by mysterious law enforcement types to investigate the kidnapping of Rosemary Goldsmith, the daughter of a powerful arms contractor. They think she's been taken by a former boxer, Bob Mantle, who's black, and Easy might have entry into Mantle's world.
Of course, nothing is the way it seems, but having introduced the drug scene, in this book Mosley moves into the parallel world of protest and revolution. The story is intricate, and not made easier, so to speak, by being off-stage, in the sense we know as little as Easy about what's really going on, both among the people he's chasing and the ones who are, in effect, chasing him.
The references are obvious; this is an inversion of sorts of the Patty Hearst kidnapping, and Rose Gold's father is a sort of reclusive Howard Hughes figure. A black revolutionary, Uhuru Nolice, is part of the plot, and quite early we learn that he is what Bob Mantle has become.
In one sense, this novel is disappointing, because the denouement is primarily an offstage event; Easy's concern is saving one character, not doing what he was hired to do. What is most interesting, as it was in Little Green, is Mosley's perspective on these times of rapid change, and how different a world this makes Los Angeles for its black community.
Along those lines, Easy appears to be gathering a crew here, including an American Indian, Redbird, who works for Rosemary Goldsmith's mother, and acts as a kind of Hawk to Easy's Spenser. Rawlins drops a line about opening a detective agency, and he's got an ex-cop, his con-woman girl friend, a hippie chick in love with Mama Jo, and various other people to draw on. Which may make LA even more interesting as it moves toward 1968, and the biggest crime since the Black Dahlia in that city's lurid history. Rose Gold may move in circles, as Easy does, for too long, but as always with Mosley, the insights keep the story moving.
Rose Gold by Walter Mosley
Weidenfeld & Nicolson £18.99 ISBN 9780297871750
Note: This review will also appear at Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk)