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Little Scarlet (Easy Rawlins Mysteries), by Walter Mosley and Michael Boatman (Narrator)

Little Scarlet

In 1965, the race riots in the Watts area of LA were in their fifth day, and things were beginning to simmer down when a white man was pulled from his car by an angry mob and beaten. He escaped into the neighborhood and became the chief suspect when a young black woman was found brutally murdered. The police, concerned that this murder of a young black woman might incite more rioting, convinced a black man who was well known to the Watts people to help them find the killer. Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, an amateur sleuth familiar with the neighborhood, was recruited by the police to help solve the murder because they knew that no white detectives could conduct an investigation amidst the violence and racial tension of the riots.

By the title, one would not expect the story to involve race riots in Watts in the '60s, but the murder victim was a young black woman who was known as "Little Scarlet" because of her reddish hair. This is Mosley's eighth Easy Rawlins thriller, and with each mystery Easy discloses more and more of what drives him to live and work the way he does. The backdrop of the volatile race relations of the '60s gives Easy the opportunity to voice the pain, anger and frustration felt by men and women as a result of discrimination.

Mosley's excellent writing and Michael Boatman's sensitive narration combine to create a vivid portrait of a difficult time in U.S. history. Through Easy's reactions to the things he sees and the people he meets, we hear Mosley teaching us what it was like to be an intelligent African American man in an insane world.

In addition to being a study of Watts in the time of the riots, this story is a cliffhanger that keeps the listener tuned in to hear the final results. I liked hearing the insights of people who could actually have been in Los Angeles in 1965, and it gave me a greater understanding of the plight of the people at that time and their reasons for rioting. I recommend this book both as a thrilling nail-biter and as a thoughtful history lesson.

John Mormon

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