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Bad Boy Brawly Brown: An Easy Rawlins Mystery    by Walter Mosley order for
Bad Boy Brawly Brown
by Walter Mosley
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Fans of Ezekiel Porterhouse 'Easy' Rawlins will be thrilled to see him again after a six years absence (since A Little Yellow Dog). He misses, and dreams of, his best friend Mouse (Raymond Alexander) and feels guilt over his death (which remains ambiguous through this story, with hints that Mouse might not even be dead). In 60s Los Angeles, Easy is pulled out of respectability, as a parent of adopted children Jesus and Feather with a steady job as school maintenance supervisor, by a call for help from another friend. John asks Easy's help in tracking down Brawly Brown, son of his girlfriend, Alva Torres.

Brawly, a hot-tempered young man with more muscle than sense, has 'a chip on his shoulder, ants in his pants, eyes twice as big as his stomach, and a heart just drippin' right off his sleeve.' He's mixed in with a bad crowd, the First Men and the Urban Revolutionary Party, a mix of do-gooders, revolutionaries, and those who manipulate them for their own ends. Brawly's father, with whom he had an on and off relationship, is found dead on his aunt's doorstep, and there are indications that Brawly has been mistreated by his family. As Easy finds and then loses Brawly again, more deaths follow with a few close calls for Ezekiel himself.

Easy's very centered lover Bonnie gives him wise advice 'What you should be doing is finding yourself, not this boy' but he persists and runs into a femme fatale and layers of betrayal, in a plot reminiscent of Raymond Chandler though in a different stratum of society, in which 'the threat of tomorrow was never as urgent as making it through today.' Threaded through this storyline of 'young men fighting and dying for ideas they barely understand, for rights they never possessed, for beliefs based on lies' are sub-plots, equally interesting, about Easy's feelings for Mouse and Bonny, and how he deals with his son Juice's desire to quit school and build a boat. Easy's solution is as sound and creative as the manner in which he helps Brawly Brown avoid disaster.

If you're already a fan, then you'll rush out to acquire this book. If not, and you enjoy a hard-boiled detective yarn with a dose of philosophy, try this mystery. Walter Mosley is an accomplished veteran writer and it shows; Bad Boy Brawly Brown sure is Easy reading.

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