Walter Mosley’s an engaging guy. He’s well-read, well-spoken, and a good public speaker. Also, he’s kind of an icon in the mystery/crime genre. His series featuring Easy Rawlins, a black private investigator in New Orleans, is a classic, and the first book in that series – Devil in a Blue Dress – was nominated for an Edgar for Best First Novel in 1991. (He lost out to Patricia Cornwell’s debut novel featuring Kay Scarpetta, Postmortem.) He’s pretty prolific, but I haven’t read a lot of his work, so I was looking forward to All I Did Was Shoot My Man. But the book didn’t keep my interest.
The protagonist, Leonid McGill, has an interesting backstory. Now a private investigator and more-or-less on the straight and narrow, he used to be an out-and-out criminal, not above framing a woman for robbing an insurance company vault of $58 million. He’s estranged from his socialist father, has a daughter and two sons (only one of whom is likely his by blood, and it’s not the one that’s most like him), a “troubled” wife and a young girlfriend. In All I Did Was Shoot My Man, McGill’s pretending that a lawyer hired him to help Zella Grisham, the woman he framed. The main plot has many threads, and by the end, McGill has unravelled the knots to reveal who really stole the money. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have cared less.
A side plot has Leonid’s son Twill working in his agency, mostly to keep him away from a life of crime, and placed undercover on assignment to explore how a wealthy young man got mixed up with a gunrunning, drug-selling gang. The bad news: the client’s son is the ringleader.
The book is talky, there are too many characters, and I had zero emotional engagement. Perhaps if I’d read the previous books in the series, I might have been more caught up. But I can only call it as I see it, so All I Did Was Shoot My Man‘s going to the bottom of the ranking.
MWA Edgar for Best Novel rankings: