Leonid McGill is back, in the third installment in Walter Mosley’s latest New York Times bestselling series. The economy has hit the private-investigator business hard, even for the detective designated as “a more than worthy successor to Philip Marlowe” (The Boston Globe) and “the perfect heir to Easy Rawlins” (Toronto, Globe and Mail). Lately, Leonid McGill is getting job offers only from the criminals he’s worked so hard to leave behind. Meanwhile, his life grows ever more complicated: his favorite stepson, Twill, drops out of school for mysteriously lucrative pursuits; his best friend, Gordo, is diagnosed with cancer and is living on Leonid’s couch; his wife takes a new lover, infuriating the old one and endangering the McGill family; and Leonid’s girlfriend, Aura, is back but intent on having some serious conversations…
So how can he say no to the beautiful young woman who walks into his office with a stack of cash? She’s an artist, she tells him, who’s escaped from poverty via marriage to a rich collector who keeps her on a stipend. But she says she fears for her life, and needs Leonid’s help. Though Leonid knows better than to believe every word, this isn’t a job he can afford to turn away, even as he senses that—if his family’s misadventures don’t kill him first-sorting out the woman’s crooked tale will bring him straight to death’s door.
ABOUT WALTER MOSLEY
Walter Mosley is the author of more than 34 critically acclaimed books, including the New York Timesbestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 21 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City. Author website: waltermosley.com
- Leonid McGill references the strings of “karma” in conjunction with his relationship with Iran. How does karma haunt and benefit each of the book’s characters? What other aspects of karma come up in this story?
- Leonid McGill’s complicated past surfaces throughout When The Thrill Is Gone. How do we learn about it? Why do you think Mosley chooses to reveal it in these ways?
- How does Leonid’s father manifest himself in this story? Compare Leonid’s outlook—and his interactions with his kids—to those of his dad.
- One of Tolstoy McGill’s sayings was, “Love will beat you down worse than any bull or truncheon.” How does this idea resonate for Leonid McGill? For his wife? His clients?
- At various points in the story, Leonid McGill reflects on his father’s communist leanings. Why do you think Mosley gave McGill a father with Soviet sympathies? To what extent do his references to communism act as a societal commentary?
- Leonid McGill notes that a black detective “still gets hassled by the cops simply for standing on the sidewalk in the middle of the day in a residential neighborhood.” Give examples of how Mosley uses McGill and his life experience to comment on disparities of race and class, and on urban life.
- Which is more challenging, McGill’s personal life or his professional predicaments? Give examples.
- Leonid’s best friend Gordo is dying from cancer. Mortality and death are strong threads in the story—and so are the survival instincts of the main characters. Discuss how these themes work in tandem and in conflict.
- The boxing gym is an important setting for this mystery. How does the sport function as a metaphor for the challenges Leonid McGill faces?
- Discuss the portrayal of women in When The Thrill Is Gone. Which female character was most believable? Who did you sympathize with the most?
- What role does New York City play in the narrative, as a backdrop, a character, and as McGill’s hometown? Discuss in terms of geography, architecture, and class relations.
- In his late teens and early twenties, Walter Mosley was addicted to alcohol and cigarettes. How do addiction and recovery figure into this narrative?
- How does Mosley create suspense in the story? Give examples and identify which of his techniques are most effective.
- What surprised you most about the book’s outcome? Did you think something different might happen? When was the turning point for you?