Fear of the Dark sings. The third mystery novel in the Fearless Jones / Paris Minton series by Walter Mosley immediately gets you, “I was expecting one kind of trouble when another came knocking at my door.” Mosley, who also pens the Easy Rawlins mysteries and an assortment of other books, is one of, if not the most, fluid mystery writers around. Fear of the Dark is as smooth as any con man you are ever likely to meet.
Set in Los Angeles of the fifties, Fear of the Dark by Walter Mosley stars Paris Minton, a used book seller who would like nothing more than some peace and quiet so he can read his books. When is cousin Useless, or Ulysses S. Grant the Fourth, comes knocking on his door, Minton knows something bad is bound to happen. When Useless’ mom comes to him for help he asks his friend and bounty hunter and bodyguard of sorts Fearless Jones for some help. It seems Useless has gotten himself into a whole lot of trouble, trouble that is even bigger considering he is a black man, this is L.A. in the fifties, and his problems come from some shady dealings with white folks.
Walter Mosley is an economical, gifted mystery writer who has a talent for everything you need for a good read. His characters, including incidental characters and supporting cast are well-defined and easy to tell apart, his prose is fluid, his descriptions short and easy to visualize. Though this Fearless Jones / Paris Minton novel is not your usual popcorn for the brain mystery it is a fun read. This is in part because he has set Paris Minton, a well-read man, as his narrator.
The search for Useless allows Minton, Fearless Jones, the reader, and Walter Mosley to explore black Los Angeles of the fifties. This makes for an entertaining and very different reading experience that, because of Mosley’s economy, does not seem forced or too long. Another strong point is the character of Three Hearts, Useless’ mother, a force to be reckoned with especially as Paris believes she has the evil eye and powers beyond his understanding.
Although Walter Mosley does have somewhat of a social / racial agenda when he writes, he manages to make his points smoothly without hitting the reader over the head. For example, one of Paris Minton’s best customers drops off a box of books she has read where the black man is denigrated by Black and white authors. Paris makes a comment about it and Mosley then drops the point, knowing it is there in the reader’s mind.
In the end though, it is the basic mystery in this novel, what happened to Useless and what kind of trouble did he get into, that keeps you turning the pages of Fear of the Dark by Walter Mosley. It is also what makes this writer one of those whose name you will willingly drop when, talking with another mystery fan, you will say, “You have to read Mosley, He is superb!”
Fear Of The Dark
A Fearless Jones mystery
Little, Brown and Company 2006
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