Devil In A Blue Dress Summary

Walter Mosley

Devil In A Blue Dress

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Devil In A Blue Dress Summary

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Devil in a Blue Dress is a 1990 detective novel written by Walter Mosley. The book is Mosley’s first novel, as well as the first in a series featuring fictional detective Easy Rawlins. The novel follows Rawlins as he investigates the whereabouts of a mysterious woman named Daphne Monet and embarks on his new career as a detective. The novel was well-received by critics and fans of mystery literature, winning the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America as well as a nomination for the prestigious Edgar Award. In 1995, the novel was adapted into a film directed by Carl Franklin and starring Denzel Washington.

The novel takes place in Los Angeles in the year 1948. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, an African-American veteran of World War II, is sitting in his friend Joppy’s bar in a working-class, black neighborhood when a white man, DeWitt Albright, walks in. Albright gives Easy his business card and tells him that he has an undercover job for him. Easy is reluctant to accept his offer at first, but decides to take it because he has recently been fired from his job at an aircraft company and needs the money to pay off his mortgage. He meets Albright in his office, where the latter tells him that he needs help finding a white woman named Daphne Monet who has been known to frequent black speakeasies. Easy promises to look for her, and Albright gives him a hundred dollars in advance payment.

Easy goes to John’s Place, an illegal jazz club in the back of a grocery store owned by Hattie Parsons. He chats briefly with the doorman, Junior Fornay, who tells him that a chauffeur, Howard Green, was beaten to death after leaving the club and that his murder had something to do with him working for a man named Matthew Teran. At the club, Easy meets his old friend from Texas, Dupree, and his girlfriend, Coretta. He goes home with them and ends up having sex with Coretta while Dupree sleeps in the next room. Coretta tells Easy that she knows Daphne Monet.

When Easy gets home, he receives a letter from Mouse, an old acquaintance from Texas who has a violent past. Mouse writes to him that he is having marital problems with his wife, Etta Mae, and that he would like to come to Los Angeles to visit his old friend. Easy is reluctant to meet up with Mouse because he wants to put his old life behind him.Two police officers, Miller and Mason, arrest Easy at his home and take him to the police station for interrogation. Easy goes to John’s Place, where Hattie tells Easy that Coretta was beaten to death in the same manner as Howard Green, and that Dupree had also been taken in for questioning.

When Easy gets home, he receives a phone call from Daphne Monet, who urges him to meet her. Easy does, and the two of them go to the home of Daphne’s friend Richard only to discover him dead with a butcher’s knife in his chest. Daphne throws her suitcase into a pink Studebaker and flees after kissing Easy so hard that she chips his tooth. Easy gets home to find Albright and two other men waiting for him with a pot of coffee. Easy tells Albright about Richard’s death. Albright gives him another hundred dollars to go speak to a man named Mr. Baxter.

Easy calls Etta Mae and invites Mouse to come to Los Angeles. He goes to find Baxter, who is the vice president of a company called Lion Investments. Baxter directs him to Mr. Carter, the president of the firm. Easy finds out that Mr. Carter is in love with Daphne Monet and wants to marry her. He says that Daphne took thirty thousand dollars from him before she left, but he does not care about the money and only wants to find her. Carter says she was wearing a blue dress when he last saw her. He offers Easy a thousand dollars to help track her down.

After asking around at a barbershop and Joppy’s bar for information on Frank Green, Easy returns home and is ambushed by Frank, who holds him at knife point. However, Mouse intervenes and saves him from Frank, who escapes. Easy finds out from the police that Teran had been shot through the heart and killed. He and Mouse confront Junior, the doorman at John’s Place, who confesses to killing Richard. Easy eventually finds Daphne Monet at a motel, and takes her to his friend Primo’s house where they make love. Daphne tells him that Joppy killed both Howard Green and Coretta. She also tells him about being molested by her father, and offers him two thousand dollars to take her to Frank Green.

Albright and Joppy kidnap Daphne from Primo’s house and hold her hostage at Albright’s home in Malibu. Easy goes to find her, and gets into a gunfight with Albright. Mouse shows up and shoots Albright, who escapes and drives away in his Cadillac. The two tie Joppy to a chair, and Mouse shoots and kills him. Mouse tells Daphne that Frank is dead, and asks for his share of the thirty thousand dollars that she promised him. Mouse reveals that Daphne’s real name is Ruby Hanks, and that she is actually a black woman passing for white. Frank is Daphne’s half-brother, and she is loyal to him because he killed her sexually abusive father.

Daphne admits to killing Teran, and splits her thirty thousand dollars evenly with Easy and Mouse after they blackmail her. After Daphne leaves, Mouse confesses to Easy that he killed Frank. Easy goes to Carter and tells him that Daphne left him because she loved him too much. He also tells him that Frank is dead and that Joppy disappeared. Carter agrees to help clear Easy’s name with the police. In his conversation with Miller and Mason, Easy pins the murders on Frank Green and Teran and deliberately omits Daphne’s role. He also tips them off that Junior killed Richard. The novel ends with Mouse going back to Texas and Easy paying off his mortgage and starting his own private eye business.

The main themes of the novel are crime, intrigue, violence, identity, and racism. An example of ethnic detective fiction, the novel takes a familiar genre and tells it from a uniquely African-American perspective. The book also gives readers a glimpse into the seedy underworld of Los Angeles in the 1940s, and provides social commentary about race relations during that time.