Walter Mosley is such a versatile writer. While most famous for his Easy Rawlins mystery series, he’s worked in just about every genre one can think of: noir, hardboiled, scifi, fictional bio. The guy can do it all.
The Leonid McGill series is the first series of his I’ve ventured from Easy Rawlins in his oeuvre. And it’s like they were written by two different people.
Mosley got his writing start in the 80s. His books would get progressively better. As much as I enjoy Devil In a Blue Dress, his latter Rawlins novels are far superior in plot and pace (I’d love to see him write that one nowadays). By the time he sat down to pen the Leonid McGill novels in the mid-to-late aughts, he was at the top of his craft.
Just as the Rawlins novels are less of a mystery and more of an examination of what it meant to be black in post-WWII Los Angeles, the McGill novels, while still featuring mysteries, is more of a tale of what it means to be consistently remorseful and desiring reconciliation. Leonid McGill is trying to right the wrongs of his past life as a mob fixer but he can’t do that without trafficking in Manhattan’s murky underworld. Hence books one and two.
There’s no way to know what’s coming in these novels, either in McGill’s personal life or with the case he’s working on. Mosley throws so much at you, it’s hard to keep up. There are three threads that the protagonist is dealing with. But as I got deeper, I once again felt less interested in the mystery and more interested in the world Leonid operates in. It’s the underworld but it’s the underworld controlled by mysterious men. Mosley is essentially pulling back the curtain to let you see the show.
This is not a conventional mystery whodunnit, although the case looms over everything and has a resolution. This is an exploration of a man’s life and his city. Make sure you know that going in.