Paris Minton and Fearless Jones are the yang to Easy and Mouse’s yin, which provides plenty of opportunity for Paris (like Easy a thinker but also a coward, born to be played by Giancarlo Esposito, which he was) to get into trouble, and for Fearless, who often gets him into the situations, to help get him out. Because Fearless is even more a deus ex-machina id figure than Mouse; and more vulnerable to the vagaries of femmes fatales. As usual, the plot simply gets away from Mosley, who is forced to spend page after page recapitulating where he is, probably because the characters may be just as confused as the readers. In the end, where one character turns out to be a very Big Sleep-style villain, it all makes sense, barely. Since we also get the black female equivalent of General Sternwood, I sense the homage may be deliberate. You remember that The Big Sleep revolved around the doings in an antique bookstore which fronted for something very different. The connections are strong to Fear Itself, but they go only so far, because in a sense the entire story is merely an extended metaphor for the bad things that happen when black people allow their cultural heritage to be bought (and sold) by whites. It’s a metaphor that’s integral to the plot, and because Paris is also a used-book dealer, it takes on a particular resonance and really makes the story work, even if the backstory remains so thinly detailed that the plot’s machinations leave it panting.

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