The sixth installment of Mosley's LA-set series opens a few months after the traumatic events of Little Yellow Dog (including the apparent death of his best friend, Mouse). Easy Rawlins is trying to get his life back on track as the woman he met in that last adventure, Bonnie, has moved in with him and his children, Feather and Jesus. However, his old friend John, who did him a few favors in that last book, calls upon Easy for help. John's stepson Brawly seems to have fallen in with a bad crowd of black revolutionaries and John wants Easy to extricate him before anything bad happens. There's a nice subplot about Jesus wanting to drop out of high school, and how Easy deals with that, which ties into the father/son theme that runs strongly throughout the entire series.
But this relatively simple favor gets quickly complicated as Brawly proves hard to find and Easy stumbles across yet another dead body (it would be interesting to go through the series and tally up how many times Easy has come across a corpse). Soon he is digging into Brawly's family history, as well as attempting to meet members of the Urban Revolutionary Party. This allows Mosley to show the state of the civil rights movement, which is shown in all shades of gray--from militant, to earnest, to misguided, to naive, to indifferent, and everything in between. It also allows him to highlight the dirty tricks of the FBI and police, who had special clandestine units set up to monitor and sabotage groups like the fictional Urban Revolutionary Party. One minor flaw in the book is the generic feel of this group, they come across as a small collection of earnest, but vaguely naive and misguided people.
As usual in the Easy Rawlins series, as he drives around town poking around, lots of characters are introduced--many of which are more interesting than the main characters. Also as usual, what should be relatively straightforward is awfully complicated, and of course the racist police are just waiting to crack some heads. Fortunately for Easy, he keeps hearing the dead Mouse's voice in his head, dispensing advice when things get tough. This device gets pretty cheesy after a while, and one keeps waiting for Mouse to arise from the dead and walk into the story at a crucial point. Another minor flaw with the book is that almost the entire book passes with little information about Brawly, there's little reason for the reader to care about whether Easy rescues him or not. Even Easy starts questioning just how deep he's going to get into the matter, and whether Brawly is worth it. The ultimate solution at the end is rather a neat one, and on the whole, the book is one of the stronger in the series.
Note: At one point in the book, Easy makes the angry point that there are no black Ambassadors representing his country. While is is certainly true that America's diplomatic corps has been largely white until the 1970s, in point of fact, the first black Ambassador was appointed in 1948 as envoy to Liberia. His name was Edward Dudley, and his story and that of other early black diplomats is detailed in the book Black Diplomacy: African Americans and the State Department, 1945-1969.