By Bill Kohlhaase
Even when we like them, we don’t always admire the characters in Walter Mosley’s fiction. Ben Dibbuk is no exception. A former hard-drinking, skirt-chasing angry young man, Ben has fallen into a rut thanks to a regular job and a 20-year marriage. It’s as if his soul has been sucked clean (alluding to the book’s title). He’s unmoved by his circumstances: an unresponsive wife who’s probably sleeping with a co-worker, a daughter who gives it up with just a touch on the shoulder, a Russian mistress who truly loves him, his own need for frequent, often violent sex. Things change when he’s approached by a woman from his unremembered past. Like Mosley’s Easy Rawlins books, Diablerie turns on an unsolved crime; like his straight novels (The Man In My Basement), its characters have little control over their lives. The mystery here centers on psychology and human nature, it’s less a who-done-it than why. Mosley’s raw prose carries a certain music, his themes are bleak, perverted and racially complicated. Even as the roots of Ben’s soulless confusion unravel, their consequences remain. Not everything in the novel, as Ben himself muses, leads somewhere. And that’s exactly what draws the reader in.
Bloomsbury, hardback 180 pages, $23.95