Fear Itself by Walter Mosely

Read July 2022
Recommended for Easy Rawlins fans who have run out of books
★   ★   ★

I like Walter Mosley, I really do. His writing captures that blend of action, description and social commentary that elevates a good mystery into the sublime. I’ve long been a fan of Easy Rawlins, his longest-running series, but Socrates’ stories in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned were impressive as well (side note: I need to get back to that series). So I was an easy mark for Amazon’s $2 sale of Fear Itself, the series starring bookstore owner Paris Minton and his best friend Mouse Fearless Jones. Alas, it didn’t carry the same level of distinctiveness for me that I’ve found in the other two series.

“Fearless never hesitated unless he knew that he was going to cause problems for someone he cared for. And that someone was almost always me.”

All three series are set in Los Angeles; Easy’s stories start in the 1940s and progress to modernity, while Paris’ are set in the 1950s. Since most of the Easy books I read were in the 50s as well, I felt like there were a lot of similarities between the two series, from time period to characters. The deeply conflicted relationships between Easy and Mouse and Paris and Fearless were similar with the back-and-forth lifesaving and physicals skills. What was a little different is that Fear’s cast of characters provided a wider look at African Americans in L.A., from the extremely wealthy beauty mogul down to the man working a Texas watermelon hustle.

“Orrin only allowed classical music on the record player. Because of this aesthetic only a certain kind of customer frequented the place. Members of the church, especially the choir, older ladies who were scandalized by boogie-woogie and rhythm and blues, pretentious white-collar professionals, and world-weary lovers, muggers, and thieves were the regulars”

Regardless, I was there for it. However, the mystery itself has a confusing number of twists, betrayals, and revealations. You know that rule about economy of characters? I was sure Mosley wasn’t following it, because how on earth could he fit them all in? But he does; oh, indeed, he does. I think I was dizzy by the end.

“By then I was pretty sure that I was in a madhouse, or at least in a house that was in the process of going mad.”

Was it worth reading another? Meh, not really. I remember the perfection of Devil in a Blue Dress and find myself more tempted to follow Easy through time if I want a mystery. These days, however, I find myself more intrigued by the thought of returning to the moving complexity that was in the Socrates series.

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