From the moment he first appeared in "Devil in a Blue Dress" in 1990, Easy Rawlins was an instant favorite of discerning readers and literary critics alike. So the disappointment was palpable when the black private detective, drunk and in despair over a lost love, deliberately drove his car off a California cliff at the conclusion of "Blonde Faith," the eleventh novel in the series.
At the time, Easy's creator, Walter Mosley, said he'd had his fill of Easy and that it was time to move on to other creative work. In the six years since, he has remained productive, turning out political nonfiction, science fiction, young adult novels and fine crime novels featuring three new protagonists.
"Little Green"By Walter Mosley
Doubleday, 304 pages, $25.95, waltermosley.com/
But now, at long last, Easy is back in "Little Green," where we find him awakening from a two-monthlong coma to discover, as usual, that people he cares about need his help.
The Easy Rawlins novels have always been distinguished by the writer's remarkable literary style and the seriousness of his purpose, for these books have never been mere whodunits. Taken together, they are nothing less than a history of race relations in post-World War II Los Angeles.
"Little Green" more than lives up to the high standard the author has set.
This isn't the first time Mosley has brought a character back to life. He appeared to have killed off Easy's dangerous sidekick, Mouse, only to have him return from oblivion two books later. Now, as a badly broken Easy regains consciousness, Mouse is one of the first faces Easy sees.
Mouse, it seems, has promised a worried mother that he will find her missing teenage son. But he has no idea how to go about it. So Easy, hobbling and in pain, drags himself from his sickbed to track the boy through the hippie-infested Sunset Strip of 1960s Los Angeles.
Soon, he discovers that Evander, whose nickname is Little Green, has gotten himself into deep trouble with some very dangerous people. It will take all of Easy's wiles, connections and flagging strength to get the kid out of it.
Easy's resurrection will remind readers of the way Arthur Conan Doyle sent another beloved character, Sherlock Holmes, to an apparent death in a plunge from Reichenback Falls in "The Final Problem," only to bring him back to life in "The Return of Sherlock Holmes."