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Cinnamon KissReview - Cinnamon Kiss
An Easy Rawlins Mystery
by Walter Mosley
Time Warner AudioBooks, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Oct 2nd 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 39)

Walter Mosley's series of mystery novels featuring Easy Rawlins is reliable. Rawlins is by now a familiar figure to devotees of the series, and they know his quirks well. Rawlins has an advantage over white detectives because he is a black man in racially divided Los Angeles at the end of the 1960s, who has many friends and acquaintances who live with little regard to the law. Rawlins himself is on the edge of the crime world, ready to take some liberties if he needs to, but reluctant to make his life more difficult than it needs to be. His main priority now is his daughter Feather, who has a life-threatening illness, and he needs to find a great deal of money to pay for her medical treatment. Now Rawlins is preoccupied with how he is going to get the money, and he finds it hard to concentrate on anything else. He keeps on nearly getting into car accidents, and his dreams are very troubled. Even though Rollins owns a few properties, they have lost most of their value because it is just a year after the race riots in Watts. The life he has built up as an "upright citizen," with a regular job working running maintenance at a local school, a live-in girlfriend, Bonnie, and two children, is under threat.

So Rawlins is going through an existential crisis, reviewing his life, remembering his fighting experience during the Second World War, wondering about his relationship with Bonnie, and seeking solace in other women. He gets hired by a San Francisco lawyer, Robert Lee, to investigate a missing person, a charismatic young woman called Cinnamon Cargill, but it becomes clear that Lee does not care about Cinnamon's welfare, but rather about some documents she has. Rawlins investigates the people she associated with, and uncovers unpleasant family secrets that others want to cover up. It is an intricate plot, and by the last page, several of the characters he meets have turned up dead. The book is written with Mosley's usual skill, and Cinnamon Kiss is certainly a more thoughtful mystery than most bestsellers. Rawlins' awareness of race relations and his identity as a black man deepen many of his interactions with both whites and blacks, and the spread of hippies and the philosophy of free love in San Francisco adds an extra dimension of interest.

Nevertheless, I found that Cinnamon Kiss lacked the powerful social commentary of Mosley's previous novel in the series, Little Scarlet, which was set just after the race riots in Los Angeles. This new novel is more personal, focusing on Rawlins' own pain and featuring several encounters between him and willing young women. The mystery element is not so well integrated with Rawlins' personal struggle, and I found the whole story less gripping than that of the Little Scarlet. However, Cinnamon Kiss is still a well-written mystery with compelling characters.

The unabridged audiobook is read dramatically by Michael Boatman, who also performed Little Scarlet. Occasionally he verges on the melodramatic, especially in his rendition of the voice of Rawlins' sick daughter Feather. But Boatman does a good job, making the audiobook is a pleasure to listen to.

 

 

LINK: Review of Little Scarlet

 

2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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