The Bookworm Sez: ‘Down to the River’ a PI thriller

The Bookworm Sez: ‘Down to the River’ a PI thriller

Something’s wrong.

It may look just fine, but you know better. Call it intuition, call it plain-as-day, but there’s something off, something not-quite-right about a situation and it’s gotten under your skin. You can’t ignore it and you can’t let it be. As in the new novel, “Down the River Unto the Sea” by Walter Mosley (c.2018, Mulholland Books, $27, 325 pages), it’s time to set things right.

The last thing Joe King Oliver needed was that letter.

Joe was already skittish and uneasy in his own skin, and he certainly didn’t trust very readily. That’s what happens when you’re wrongly accused of a crime but you spend ninety days in Riker’s anyway, in solitary confinement, listening to other men scream, waiting to be killed. Yes, though that all happened more than a decade ago, it still simmered in Joe Oliver’s soul.

But that letter.

It came from a woman who wrote that her name was Beatrice but she was Nathali Malcolm once, long ago, when she was coerced into setting him up. When her lies and accusations sent an innocent man to prison.

Through the years, Joe couldn’t figure out why it happened, let alone who’d done it. He left Riker’s broken, with a lost marriage, a lost NYPD job… just lost. Weeks after his release, his only friend stepped in quietly and helped Joe with a PI business, and that’s where Joe was when he read the letter.

He didn’t want revenge – not completely, anyhow – but he did want his name cleared. This letter could do that, just as it could stir up a thousand bad dreams. So when a beautiful woman came to his office with a suitcase full of money and a story of an activist who was railroaded straight to jail for a double-cop-homicide, the time seemed right to fix a few wrongs.

But the more Joe looked at his case and that of the activist, the more he saw similarities he couldn’t ignore. In solving one injustice, could he solve another? And was it safer to trust a real demon, than to live with the demons in his life?

Here’s the thing I love best about Walter Mosley novels: the main characters are solid. You feel like you could lean on them all day, and they’d never budge.

That’s Joe King Oliver, and that’s “Down the River Unto the Sea.”

And yet, there’s wiggle room in this book: Mosley doesn’t destroy readers’ fun by telling who done it in this noir whodunit. Instead, we’re allowed the same dawning realization that Mosley’s Joe has, and that just sharpens the gasping you’ll do while reading. Add a swirl of street-darkness, a few soulless characters and some clueless ones, a bit of pure evil, and you’ll be turning pages far, far into the night.

This is one of those books that leaves you a little breathless – not only while you’re reading, but once the back cover’s closed, too. For anyone who loves hard-bitten PI thrillers, reading “Down to the River Unto the Sea” couldn’t be more right.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

More in Life

Ward off Halloween’s mystical monsters with these garlic-infused cheesy shells and pepper sauce. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tasty Halloween

Keep spooky creatures at bay with garlic-infused shells and pepper sauce.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Let there be lights!

When I stopped in at one of our local stores, I didn’t cringe when I saw all the holiday decorations on display.

Cabbage, potatoes, salmon and an assortment of pantry staples make for a culinary challenge. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Take a culinary pop quiz

Get creative with what’s in your pantry

This undated John E. Thwaites photo, perhaps taken near Seward, shows the S.S. Dora grounded. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 3

Her long career had come to an end at last.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Sometimes I wonder, who needs who

Dog whispers we are not. Suckers for unconditional love, you bet.

Meredith Harber (courtesy)
Minister’s Message: Don’t let termination dust bring you down

If I’m honest, this time of year is the hardest for me mentally and emotionally.

Pieces hang on display at the Kenai Art Center for the open call show on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘They felt like they could share with us now’

Art center open call offers space for new artists.

The Cosmic Hamlet Entertainment film crew prepares for a new scene to roll on the set of “Bolt from the Blue” at the Kilcher Homestead on Sept. 28. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
‘Bolt from the Blue’ film features Homer

“The Office” star Kate Flannery cast in feature film produced in Homer.

These old-fashioned doughnuts don’t skimp on the fat or sugar. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Memories of old-fashioned doughnuts

My recipe is for old-fashioned doughnuts, and since I make these maybe twice a year, I don’t skimp on the sugar and fat.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: October is here again

The days are shorter. We are losing nearly six minutes a day. It’s getting colder.

This John E. Thwaites photo shows the S.S. Dora near Sand Point, Alaska. Thwaites sailed as mail clerk on the Dora between at least 1905 and 1912. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 2

The S.S. Dora touched lives on and became part of the history of the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska.

Steller Sea Lions can be seen in an enclosure at the Alaska SeaLife Center on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska SeaLife Center to Alaskans: We’re still here for you

You rallied and kept us alive. Today, we’re writing to say thank you.