Sunday, May 13, 2018

Author examines issues of race in 'Down the River'

Few mystery writers can examine issues of race — how it divides and binds people — as clearly and unflinchingly as Walter Mosley, who returns to this theme in his stand-alone novel "Down the River Unto the Sea."

Examining how discrimination and prejudice affects African-Americans is right in Mosley's wheelhouse. The author doesn't miss a beat weaving this into the gritty plot of "Down the River Unto the Sea."

While the plot soars, King doesn't land as completely formed. Mosley's Easy Rawlins ruled "Devil in a Blue Dress" from the first page; Leonid McGill, Fearless Jones and Socrates Fortlow were also memorable. King needs a bit more sculpting before he reaches the level of Mosley's other characters.

Image result for down to the river unto the seaJoe King Oliver was one of the NYPD’s finest investigators, until, dispatched to arrest a well-heeled car thief, he is framed for assault by his enemies within the NYPD, a charge which lands him in solitary at Rikers Island. A decade later, King is a private detective, running his agency with the help of his teenage daughter, Aja-Denise. Broken by the brutality he suffered and committed in equal measure while behind bars, his work and his daughter are the only light in his solitary life. When he receives a card in the mail from the woman who admits she was paid to frame him those years ago, King realizes that he has no choice but to take his own case: figuring out who on the force wanted him disposed of—and why.

Running in parallel with King’s own quest for justice is the case of Frankie Figures, a Black radical journalist accused of killing two on-duty police officers—officers Figures discovered had been abusing their badges to traffic in drugs and women within the city’s poorest neighborhoods.  Joined by Melquarth Frost, a brilliant sociopath, our hero must beat dirty cops and dirtier bankers, craven lawyers, and above all keep his daughter far from the underworld in which he works. All the while, two lives hang in the balance: Frankie Figures’, and King’s own.

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