Walter Mosley strikes again in his new thriller Fear Itself, set in 1955 Watts -- only ten years before the Watts Riots, when frustrated citizens reacted to ongoing police brutality by demonstrating their outrage, the result a conflagration that almost destroyed the city in the process. In 1955, things are still quiet, although the inhabitants of this Los Angeles suburb are cautious in the extreme in any encounters with the white man. The people of Watts understand that there are severe consequences for every action, and so are generally circumspect in public behavior, avoiding unnecessary conflict with those in authority. Every Sunday, the churches ring with song as parishioners sing of deliverance and redemption.
Enter Paris Minton, a used-bookstore owner and admitted coward, mostly content to remain ensconced within his world of words. When Fearless Jones comes knocking one night, asking for help in tracking down Kit Mitchell, Paris happily agrees. He has his reasons. For one thing, the usually timid Paris is imbued with a sense of empowerment in the presence of Fearless, an ex-soldier capable of expedient violence but restrained by common sense and integrity. Fearless' physical prowess ensures Paris' safety, having come in handy on more than one occasion. Something about his friend allows the usually timid Paris to stand a little taller, to be a bit more of a man.
The police have Fearless in their sights for "questioning", so Paris does the footwork necessary to unravel the mystery, secure in the knowledge that Fearless is close behind. As their search for Mitchell progresses, Paris' personal danger increases and dead bodies complicate the unraveling mystery. At the heart of it all: a stolen heirloom, a priceless slave journal and enough money to attract crooks from miles around.
Mosley's multi-layered plot abounds with unpredictable twists and turns. The author's particular appeal lies in the lively dialogue of a fabulous assortment of eccentric characters. Paris' literate approach balances perfectly Fearless' street-wise charm, allowing the well-educated Paris an adventurous romp on the dark side of the street. The inspired pairing of the intrepid Fearless Jones and the refined Paris Minton will doubtless garner even more Mosley fans as they anticipate the next adventure of the unlikely duo.