Bad Boy Brawly Brown

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In his first outing in six years, Easy Rawlins is still trying to go straight by mopping floors as a janitor. But fortunately for us, the hard-boiled, hard-luck gumshoe with a heart of gold and a nose for trouble is soon back out on the street, looking for Brawly Brown, a well-meaning young man who has fallen in with a crew of violent radicals. It's a great yarn, crackling with righteous anger and ethical ambiguity, set in the roiling, sweltering Los Angeles of the mid-'60s (Philip Marlowe wouldn't last a minute here). But Mosley's heavy-handed, Hemingwayesque prose weighs everything down like a snitch in a pair of cement shoes. Mosley should lay off the literary airs and stick to action: like his hero, he's at his best when he's slumming it.