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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
© 2005 Christian Perring. All
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.