Little Scarlet (2004)
Author: Walter Mosley
Genre (and subgenre): Mystery (Amateur/P.I.)
In the days immediately following the Watts riots of 1965, Easy Rawlins is asked by the LAPD to help solve a murder of a young African-American woman that took place during the riots. The police think a white man committed the murder and want the investigation conducted quietly and off the books for fear of the riots starting up again. Despite his distrust/borderline hatred of the police (Rawlins is also African-American), Easy takes the case out of a sense of obligation to his community and eventually unravels the case, discovering it has a connection to a murder he had investigated some years before.
Geographical Setting: Los Angeles
Time Period: 1965
Series: Easy Rawlins (Book 9)
The book is relatively fast paced with plenty of action and short chapters, but it is interspersed with Rawlins’ musings on racism in America and a depiction of his unconventional home life (he has two adopted children and lives with his girlfriend). It should appeal to readers who enjoy conventional mysteries placed in a wider social context, with a well-drawn central character and a colorful supporting cast.
African-American detectives: Eleanor Taylor Bland (female protagonist; contemporary Chicago); Barbara Hambly (historical – 19th century New Orleans); Earl Emerson (contemporary Seattle)
The constant presence of racial tension might turn off some readers looking for a lighter read. There is some sex, violence, and profanity, but not excessive – approximately a PG-13 if it were a movie