A Red Death

A Red Death

by Walter Mosley

Debbie Weiss (12/11/13): While the plot of this book was interesting, I was never pulled into the story. Easy Rawlins has been asked by the FBI to spy on Chaim, a Jewish union organizer, in return for "forgiveness" of his delinquent taxes. Easy ends up bonding with Chaim, as they have a lot in common, both having seen fighting and suffering and death during the war. There are many characters in the book which tended to make the story line confusing and there were some murders along the way, too. It was up to Easy to figure out who was going around doing the killing and to to discover the reason why. While it was a quick read, it was not particularly interesting to me and I really cannot recommend the book. That being said, I understand that the author is very intelligent and is a very prolific writer, whose many books have received great reviews. Perhaps, I just picked the wrong first book to read by this author.

Judy Stanton (12/09/13): I agree totally with Gail's review. I read Walter Moseley's The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray and found it to be a far better read, with fewer characters that were easier to follow. I was interested in A Red Death after having done some research on Moseley and finding out that he is Jewish and African American. So, I was looking to see how he would portray the Jewish character in this book. Despite being the person he was supposed to investigate, and being suspected of being a "communist," Chaim turned out to be someone Easy Rawlins befriended and respected. They felt a shared sense of being "minorities." In the research, an Irish writer known for the emotional turmoil of her female characters told Moseley at the beginning of his career "you're black, Jewish, with a poor upbringing…there are riches therein." While I don't think I would take on reading the Easy Rawlins series, I certainly would read more of Walter Moseley's works.

Gail Reid (12/04/13): Set in the early 1950's in the Watts area of Los Angeles, A Red Death is one of the mystery series featuring Easy (Ezekiel) Rawlins. Easy masquerades as a janitor, although he is the owner of several apartment buildings in the African-American neighborhood where he lives. When the IRS comes after him for tax evasion, an FBI agent promises to make the problem go away in exchange for some detective work on a Jewish union organizer suspected of communist ties. Over the course of the book, there are several murders, lending some suspense to the story.

As a mystery story, this book is average and the plot is convoluted with too many characters to keep straight. As insight into the McCarthy era, when many peoples' allegiance to the U.S. was questioned, it is very insightful. The real strength of the book, however, is the dialogue, the working class dialect and vernacular of a black community in the 1950's. The conversations between the characters are reflective of the hard times and poor employment opportunities available to them during this era.

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