Down the River Unto the Sea

It's been more than a decade since Joe King Oliver, a former cop, spent three months at Rikers Island prison for a crime he didn't commit. Although, he's well aware that he couldn't have been framed if he hadn't been cheating on his wife. Now without a wife and a badge, he's joylessly running a one-man detective service in Brooklyn with secretarial help from his teenage daughter, whose very existence curbs some of his more self-defeating impulses: "The madman created by Rikers was still there in my head."

While working to prove the wrongful conviction of a male schoolteacher on death row for killing two cops, Oliver receives a letter from the woman whose coerced claim that he raped her put him on the path to Rikers. She has found God, and with God, morality. After the woman divulges a key name, Oliver takes his own case out of mothballs.

By now it's no surprise that Walter Mosley, who created the beloved Easy Rawlins and lauded Leonid McGill mystery series, can expertly tease two simultaneous storylines to a satisfying end. An added perk: Mosley's obvious pleasure in unpacking his new protagonist's baggage is contagious. Oliver manages to find some peace while working on the parallel cases, realizing at one point that his life has "many planes of beauty to it." Down the River Unto the Sea shares this attribute. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and author

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