The idea of sending a black private eye down the mean streets of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles might have ended up as a sort of literary stunt, a clever pastiche, but Walter Mosley’s Devil In a Blue Dress is hardly a stunt or a pastiche. It’s a well-crafted, hard-hitting noir thriller, more than worthy of the Chandler tradition.
The protagonist, Easy Rawlins, is a complex character, estranged from the world he moves in not just by an eccentric moral code that harks back to Philip Marlowe’s, but also by his race, which creates moral dilemmas and peculiar forms of jeopardy every time he interacts with white people. There’s no social pleading here — just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.
A finely-tuned plot, marvelous evocations of Los Angeles in 1948 and intriguing ethical ruminations make Devil In a Blue Dress a classic contribution to the hard-boiled detective genre at its best.