By Walter Mosley (Doubleday, 291 pages, $25.95)
The plot of cerebral mystery writer Walter Mosley's latest novel, "Little Green," is nothing special. After a spectacular car accident that may or may not have been a suicide attempt, Mosley's recurring and best character, private detective Easy Rawlins, begins a rocky recovery during which he takes on a case on behalf of a bereft mother whose young adult son, Evander, also known as "Little Green," has disappeared. Easy links up with his shady, but usually good-hearted friends to search for the young man, who disappeared after taking LSD with a young hippie woman. The story is set in the 1960s in Los Angeles, amid surfers, hippies and brutal gangsters. All that's interesting, but without Easy Rawlins, it would be a conventional mystery. Easy, wracked by secrets, possible addiction to mysterious substances, depression and demons, including memories of killing men during the Battle of the Bulge and of lost love, limps through his world, trying to make it a better place even as he tries to make sense out of it. His rage at the outrageous racism he encounters almost every day is barely contained, and he has to struggle mightily not to become the kind of man he's usually trying to nab: "a demon in mortal skin." Easy's a great character, not always likable but always believable, and always true to himself, and to us, the readers.
West Metro team leader
The History of Us
By Leah Stewart (Touchstone, 367 pages, $24.99.)
In this charming novel, Leah Stewart tackles the issue of love vs. ambition with the story of a Cincinnati family forged by tragedy.
At 28, Eloise is a newly minted history professor at Harvard. She's brought back to her hometown after the deaths of her sister and her sister's husband, who have left behind three young children. Eloise gives up Harvard and moves back to Cincinnati in order to raise her nieces and nephews.
Now, 17 years later, as the youngest child prepares to leave home for a ballet company in New York, Eloise longs to return to the Northeast and its "sky bright with city lights and philosophies," but her secret girlfriend wants her to move in with her. The now-grown children have romantic secrets and entanglements of their own that strain the bonds of familial responsibility. Stewart weaves a sweet, redemptive tale of maturation, daring to ask, "Why was it so hard to tell the difference between what you thought you wanted and what you wanted?"