Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

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Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: An interesting noir style thriller with a different edge, particularly to the language. This is definitely one for fans of Raymond Chandler or similar.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Serpent's Tail
ISBN: 978-1846686832

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Serpent's Tail is fast becoming one of my favourite publishing houses. Not only have they released a great new author onto the world in the form of Dave Zeltserman, but they are also putting out reissues of some very good older titles. Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress certainly falls into this latter category.

Easy Rawlins is a little down on his luck, having just been laid off from his job and with a mortgage payment due. So when DeWitt Albright walks into Joppy's bar and offers him money for finding a young woman who has gone missing, it seems like the perfect opportunity for him to keep his house, as well as to pass some time. Of course, what Albright doesn't mention is that the reason he's looking for this woman is that she's run off with a large amount of someone else's money and quite a few people on the streets of Los Angeles are prepared to kill to get that money back.

At first Easy thinks he's on for a relatively simple job, but the people he asks about this woman start turning up dead soon after he's spoken to them. This presents a major problem for Easy, as he's a black man on the streets of a predominantly white Los Angeles in 1948 and the cops are more than happy to pin any number of murders onto Easy to get both him and the crime figures out of their hair. He's not just having to deal with a mystery, but also with the casual racism of many of the people he encounters.

I've always enjoyed the laid back style of the noir style thriller and Devil in a Blue Dress is no exception. Thanks to Mosley's style, however, there is that something a little extra here. He writes not only the noir style, but also the language of the streets incredibly well. Although Easy is the narrator as well as the main character, there is a very distinct difference between the narrative and the way he speaks. Indeed, Mosley's grasp of language is so complete that you can tell without looking whether Easy is talking to a white person or a black person as there is also a distinct line there, too.

There isn't such great distinction between some of the characters, unfortunately. With many of the people here already known to Easy prior to the events of the story, his narration doesn't allow time for descriptions or introductions. Past events and minor pieces of back story do help separate the characters slightly, but mostly the secondary characters blend together a little in the background and it's not always easy to remember who is who or what relationship they have to each other.

This doesn't really impact upon the story, however, which keeps moving with so many twists and permutations that at many points the reader can share Easy's confusion about what is going on. Unfortunately, with so much going on plot-wise, it was a shame that the book was so short as it did feel that some aspects and some characters were skipped over when you could see there was more of interest in their story. I also felt that when the ending arrived, it all came out a little too quickly and the book seemed to end in a bit of a rush that isn't quite in keeping with the laid-back nature of the noir thriller.

However, the lack of depth of story and characters don't hide that Devil in a Blue Dress is a very good read. It contains all the ingredients that makes the noir thriller such a good read and adds a little touch of roughness in the language and the hard edge of racism in 1940s Los Angeles into the mix for that little something extra. This isn't a book that would benefit from repeated reading, as once you know the ending this kind of book always loses something, but if you want something to shut yourself away with on a quiet evening, it's perfect for that.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For fans of noir thrillers, Megan Abbott's Die A Little is another one worth a look. You could shelve this next to If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes.

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Buy Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley at


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