This book is really tough to qualify and really easy to appreciate.
It seems like since the aughts, almost 20 years since he published Devil In a Blue Dress that Walter Mosley wanted to write less about whodunnit mysteries and more about the mystery of memory, time, and life. He’s quite good at it. The Socrates Fortlow books, the Leonid McGill books, Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore, The Man in My Basement….Mosley really has a habit of making existentialism sound entertaining when wrapped up in a story.
Aside from Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, this might be my favorite of his particular genre of existential tales. I wish I’d had the time to read it in one sitting, because it lends itself well to that. Told without chapters through the cracked lens view of Ptolemy Grey’s memory, the reader finds that they are trying to piece together the story in the same way Grey does. In the hands of lesser writers, this wouldn’t be that interesting. But Mosley is a pro. And he shines here.
If I had one issue with the book, it’s the relationship dynamic between Ptolemy and Robyn. It was barely believable and grossly problematic, given Robyn’s age. Mosley has never been great with female characters, though he has written some interesting ones. Robyn is often treated as a device and her presence (or lack thereof as she’s usually just a narrative convenience) lessens the tale.
But that shouldn’t stop anyone from reading it. This is a great book and I’m fascinated to see how it will be adapted. It certainly lends itself to a quality cinematic portrayal.