Devil in a Blue Dress introduces readers to Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, the principal character in Mosley’s detective novels. Easy is not a licensed detective; in fact, he is not a detective at all at the outset of the novel. It is 1948, and he is a young black veteran of World War II who has moved to the largely black Watts section of Los Angeles after growing up in a tough Houston neighborhood.
Circumstances conspire to put Easy in the detective business. He has lost his job at an aircraft factory after standing up to his white supervisor. Easy likens the plant to a plantation, but without his job there, he has no way to make the mortgage payments on his small house in Watts.
A solution arises when a bartender and former fighter named Joppy, also from Houston, introduces Easy to a menacing white man named Albright. Albright is searching for a white woman named Daphne Monet, who has been seen in Watts. According to Albright, Daphne’s former lover merely wants to get in touch with her. Despite misgivings, Easy takes on the job of finding Daphne.
Soon a string of murders convinces Easy that he has gotten himself into something more dangerous than he imagined. The police rough him up. Desperate, Easy summons his friend Mouse from Houston to help. Mouse is Easy’s best friend, but he is also the reason Easy left Houston. Mouse is a killer who, on one occasion, made Easy an accessory to murder. Easy leaves a message for Mouse. Not knowing what to expect, he then tries to handle the situation himself.
(The entire section is 641 words.)