Monday, May 2, 2011


Walter Mosley's When the Thrill Is Gone is a father-son novel.  It is a mystery novel too.

First the mystery.

Chrystal Tyler, the wife of a millionaire, hires PI Lenoid McGill because she thinks her husband is planning to kill her.  Then mob boss Harris Vartan asks McGill to find a missing person. 

Both cases involve violence and deception. 

At the same time, McGill's family is falling apart.  His wife is seeing another man, something which he accepts; one son has left the U.S. to meet up with a troubled girlfriend; and his second son is involved in a sophisticated con.

Deception surrounds everything that happens.  McGill and his computer-savvy friends work their way through the whole mess.  In the process McGill learns not to hate his father and to try to be something different for his son.

Nobody writes like Walter Mosley. 

To give just one example, listen to this little bit of description as Leonid overhears his friend, a now-retired millionaire psychopathic killer, tell his son a story--

"Hush told stories about a brave knight who wore black armor and a beautiful princess who loved him.  The princess was kidnapped and the knight's best friend saved her and then the knight saved the best friend and they all lived in a big pink place where the full moon shown every night and the days were all sunny.

"It was another side of the assassin, a side that only the people in the room ever saw.

"It gave me the feeling of being singled out--like an elk in the crosshairs of a high-powered rifle."

Leonid McGill lives in such a different world than mine.  Sometimes I have to struggle just to follow what is happening in Walter Mosley stories.  McGill knows so many people that I have trouble keeping up with them. He is such a mix of cynicism, violence, and deep feeling for people like almost-orphaned children, that he is sometimes hard to follow.

But for me, no writer is more memorable than Mosley.  No writer uses so many aphorisms, such well-put-together sentences, so many memorable and telling phrases. And few writers tell such a good story. 

So would I recommend this book?  Without a doubt. Mosley's books are great or near-great literature disguised as noir mystery novels.  He is one of a kind.

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