Sunday, October 25, 2020

Eight books featuring unlikely detectives

Peter Colt was born in Boston, MA in 1973 and moved to Nantucket Island shortly thereafter. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Rhode Island and a 24-year veteran of the Army Reserve with deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. He is a police officer in a New England City and the married father of two boys.

Colt's new novel is Back Bay Blues.

[My Book, The Movie: Back Bay BluesThe Page 69 Test: Back Bay BluesQ&A with Peter Colt]

At CrimeReads, Colt tagged eight novels featuring "amateur sleuths [who] never asked to get mixed up in a murder investigation—but they won't stop looking until they find the truth," including:
Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

This is the one that started this whole train of thought. I was working on one of my novels with its very conventional detective and all I could think of was Easy Rawlins. As my guy is getting ready to go out looking for a missing teen, I was wondering if Easy were in the same situation, would he rather be at home with a drink, listening to a fight on the radio? After all, Easy never wanted to be a detective, it was thrust on him.

Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins is a World War II veteran who is originally from Houston. He is laid off from his job as a defense contractor and ends up drinking in another Houstonian’s bar. While there, he is hired by a white man to find a white woman named Daphne Monet who frequents black jazz clubs. It doesn’t take long for bodies to appear, putting Rawlins into it up to his neck. Like all the best mysteries, this one has the potent combination of murder and blackmail.

Easy Rawlins is an Unlikely Detective because it is the last thing he wants to do. He would much rather have his job at the defense plant, to make his mortgage payments and live the American dream. The problem is that in 1940s Los Angeles, that dream is harder to realize for some more than others. Rawlins is black, the racism of the 1940s is pervasive and Rawlins quickly runs out of options to save his bit of the American Dream. Once he reluctantly becomes a detective and is thrust deeper into the case, racism becomes even more acute when he is dealing with the police. Racism is a constant backbeat, the bass notes to the story. It is always there, but it isn’t the whole story. Walter Mosley does a brilliant job of using fiction to address racism and by driving the plot with it. He also tells us a great detective story about a guy who just wants to be an average Joe and ends up an Unlikely Detective.
Read about another entry on the list.

Devil in a Blue Dress is among E.G. Scott's ten best pairs of frenemies in fiction, Alex Segura's nine top jazz-infused crime novels, Lori Roy's five top morality-driven thrillers, and Al Roker's six favorite crime novels.

Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, from Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series, made The A.V. Club's list of “13 sidekicks who are cooler than their heroes.”

--Marshal Zeringue