Daily Archives: August 12, 2009

The Long Fall – Book Review

longfall I was like a man, shovel in hand, finding himself standing in a freshly dug grave but with no memory of having dug it. I stayed there because at least if you’ve hit bottom you had no farther to fall. – from The Long Fall –

Leonid McGill is a man of contradictions. He has spent much of his life working for criminals as a Private Investigator, immersing himself in the dangerous world of organized crime. But he has a conscience and now wants to live a different life – one where people don’t get killed just because he can locate them. He’s an ex-boxer who appreciates fine art. He’s a no-nonsense, tough guy with a soft spot for his teenage son and a commitment to a marriage that doesn’t work. Sardonic, oddly sensitive, and matter-of-fact, it is Leonid McGill who narrates Walter Mosley’s newest novel The Long Fall.

It becomes clear from the early pages of The Long Fall that McGill has his hands full with his marriage, his errant kids, and a new job which ends up being a little different than he expected.

I still had a family that looked to me for their sustenance. My wife didn’t love me and the two out of three grown and nearly grown children were not of my blood. But none of that mattered. I had a a job to do, and more than one debt to pay. – from The Long Fall –

Mosley writes in a direct way, revealing his protagonist as a man who although willing to do what it takes to get the job done, also struggles with the choices in his life and realizes he must eventually face his demons. I did not love Leonid McGill, but he eventually grew on me. There are few characters in the book who resonated with me – McGill’s children are a mess, his landlady (who wants to be his lover) is superficially drawn, his wife is pathetic, the men who McGill “works” with are cold-blooded killers for the most part, and even his friends are not people with whom I would enjoy an evening. Because of this, I struggled a bit with this novel. I admit, I want to love the characters I spend my time with…and most of Mosley’s characters seem to have been scrapped up from the worst dregs of society.

Despite this flaw (for me) in the novel, the plot itself is interesting enough. Written like a hard-boiled type mystery, Mosley lays out a mess of a plot, and then gradually untangles it. The narrative style – conversational, direct, rapid-fire – works for the novel. The book reminds me of those old 1940s movies which start out with a guy, feet up on the desk and a curl of cigarette smoke wafting to the ceiling, talking about one dark and lonely night.

The Long Fall is the first in a planned series of mysteries featuring McGill so readers who want more will get their wish. Mystery readers who like their books hard-boiled and who want a flawed character who eventually redeems himself, will enjoy The Long Fall.