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The Man in My Basement    by Walter Mosley order for
Man in My Basement
by Walter Mosley
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This psychological suspense novel, The Man in My Basement, is quite a departure from Walter Mosley's engaging Fearless Jones and Easy Rawlins mysteries. Though it's not a sub-genre that I especially enjoy, I did appreciate how well the author maintains the suspense. He secretly throws together two opposites - the footloose (but not fancy free) dreamer, Charles Blakey, and a mysteriously powerful stranger who wants to rent his basement - not a basement apartment, simply an old cobwebbed basement - for an unspecified purpose. At first Charles just says no.

But he desperately needs money. Blakey lost his bank job after he embezzled a small amount of cash, and word has spread so that he can't get another one. He's drinking too much, lashing out at his friends, and can't meet mortgage payments on the family mansion. His self esteem is rock bottom and he tells us 'I have lied all my life ... I have lied and been called a liar and then lied again to cover other falsehoods.' He seems to be a total loser, damaged by his inability to recover from an abused childhood and a hated stepfather. His life is spiralling downwards.

When Charles Blakey finally takes a large cash sum to rent his basement for the summer, and accepts the stranger's conditions, it changes his life. This man who has never managed a successful relationship with a woman, gets involved with three very different ones. He finds a focus for his life, solves his cash problems and reconciliates with his friends. How does he do it? Previously powerless, Charles gains ultimate power over another human being, someone that he concludes is 'a Moriarty or Iago ... who had been across the line of lies that defined good and evil for most normal folks.'

I highly recommend The Man in My Basement to reading groups. It makes an excellent vehicle to explore the nature of good and evil, the secrets that people keep from each other, and the consequences of the use and abuse of power.

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