REVIEWED: Down the River unto the Sea


Down the River unto the Sea by Walter Mosley (Crime/Mystery Novel, Feb. 2018).

Mosley, the best-selling author of the Easy Rawlins series, a multiple award winner and a recognized Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, here unleashes yet another very strong crime/mystery story.

Joe King Oliver, the book’s first-person narrator, was a New York police detective who might occasionally look the other way when following the letter of the law would unduly offend his sense of justice. He also had an excessive fondness for sexy ladies. But he was basically an honest cop, and a very capable one.

Ten years ago, his career was shattered. His investigation of the dockside heroin trade got the attention of some truly corrupt members of the force–and he ended up framed, brutalized in custody and broken (emotionally and physically) in solitary before all charges were suddenly dropped in exchange for him leaving the NYPD.

He lost his marriage in the process and has since been eeking out a grungy living as a private detective. The love of his now-teenaged daughter is the only thing of value he still has. Then, out of nowhere, two unexpected developments change everything.

King receives a guilt-ridden letter from someone who had been forced to help frame him. And he is drawn into the seemingly unrelated and recent case of a convicted cop-killer on death row. Is this man, like him, the victim of another frame up? King has his doubts, but begins to investigate. After all this time, he probably can’t clear his own name, but maybe getting at the truth for this other man might just provide him with some degree of redemption–if he doesn’t get killed in the process.

Mosley puts his latest flawed but decent protagonist through some very serious pain and danger. And shows King is capable of both fear and courage, cynicism and despair, resolve and ruthless determination. The author has said he wrote this book because he wanted to portray an embattled freedom fighter and the picture that emerges is of a real man facing extreme and awful choices in the best way he can.

For me, this one doesn’t have quite the resonance of the very best of the Easy Rawlins books, but it’s damn close. Well done, uncompromising and highly effective.




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