Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress Summary and Analysis of Chapters 29-31


Chapter 29

Easy drives to Malibu to find Mr. Albright. When he reaches the house, he notices that it is far away from civilization, so that "any death cry would go unheard." As Easy approaches, he has a newfound thirst for life. A fire blazes in the fireplace, and Daphne is naked on the couch with Mr. Albright and Joppy standing over her. Joppy is stripped to the waist. Mr. Albright tells her, "You don't want any more of that now do you, honey?" She spits at him and he grabs her by the throat, threatening to kill her if she does not get him the thirty thousand dollars. Easy lets his emotions get the best of him and crawls through the window. But Mr. Albright senses his presence before Easy can take aim, and the two men get into a gun battle. Joppy runs out of the room. Daphne is crying. Just then, Mouse intervenes and shoots Mr. Albright. But the white man still manages to escape and drive away in his Cadillac. Easy remembers being extremely grateful to Mouse. He says, "I got up and took the little man in my arms. I hugged him like I would hug a woman." Joppy is on the kitchen floor, where Mouse has him hog-tied with an extension cord. He is bleeding from the top of his head. They drag him into the living room and tie him to a chair.

Daphne watches on, totally frightened. Mouse tells Daphne she can have her clothes back as soon as she cuts him and Easy a deal. He wants part of the thirty thousand dollars. Easy notices that Mouse calls Daphne "Ruby." When she refuses to share the money on the grounds that it is hers and Frank's, Mouse tells her Frank is dead. Daphne is filled with new energy and she demands to know whether this is true. She calls Mouse "Raymond," his given name. Mouse replies, "Now am I gonna lie to you, Ruby? Your brother is dead." Easy is so confused, he feels as though he the ground is shifting beneath him. Daphne is a white woman, so how could she be Frank's sister? Mouse says he thinks Joppy beat Frank to death, which Joppy denies. Mouse explains to Easy that Daphne -- Ruby -- is Frank's half-sister. He has known her and Frank longer than he's known Easy. Joppy tries to interject that he did not hurt Frank, and that he teamed up with Albright only because he discovered that Daphne was lying about having money. Mouse retorts by shooting Joppy in the groin and then the eye, killing him. Mouse tosses Daphne her clothes and leaves the house.

Daphne begs Easy to shoot Mouse, but he refuses to do that or to give her his gun. As Mouse, Easy, and Daphne drive back to town, Daphne confirms that she was the one who shot Teran. She initially went to him just to ask him to leave her alone. She even offered him the thirty thousand dollars as a bribe. But Teran just laughed with his hands down the Mexican boy's pants. So she killed him and rescued the boy. After Daphne fetches the money from a YWCA locker, Mouse divides it in three, ten thousand for each of them. Easy waits with Daphne for a cab. He asks her to stay with him, but she tells him not to touch her. Daphne says she was a different person when they had sex. She tells him, "I'm not Daphne. My given name is Ruby Hanks and I was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I'm different than you because I'm two people. I'm her and I'm me. I never went to that zoo, she did. She was there and that's where she lost her father. I had a different father. He came home and fell in my bed about as many times as he fell in my mother's. He did that until one night Frank killed him." She asks Easy to bury Frank and to help the Mexican boy. She leaves Easy without touching him at all, not even a handshake.

Easy asks Mouse why he killed Joppy. Mouse says he did it in revenge for all of Easy's hardship and to show Daphne he was serious. He also confesses that he killed Frank to protect Easy. Easy recalls, "This time it was Mouse reminding me of DeWitt Albright." Mouse tells Easy that he is just like Ruby, who wants to be white. He explains, "She can love a white man but all he can love is the white girl he think she is." Mouse says that Easy thinks like a white man just as Daphne looks like a white woman. He ends by saying, "But brother you don't know that you both poor niggers. And a nigger ain't never gonna be happy 'less he accept what he is."

Chapter 30

DeWitt Albright drives all the way to Santa Barbara before finally bleeding to death. Easy says, "I could hardly believe it. A man like DeWitt Albright didn't die, couldn't die. It frightened me even to think of a world that could kill a man like that; what could a world like that do to me?" Easy drives Mouse to the bus station. Mouse says he is going to give all his share of the money to Etta so that she will take him back. After he drops Mouse off, Easy goes to Daphne's apartment where he finds the Mexican boy eating flour from a bag in an appallingly filthy condition. "His underwear hadn't been changed in weeks and mucus was caked in his nose and on his face." Easy cleans up the boy and takes him to Primo, who promises to find him a home.

Then Easy goes to Mr. Carter's office. He tells Mr. Carter that Daphne is gone, and that Mr. Albright told him about the murders Joppy and Frank had committed. He also tells him about Frank's death, and that Joppy has "disappeared." What bothers Mr. Carter the most is learning that Easy knows Daphne is "colored." But Easy tells him that Daphne had to leave him because she loved him too much. Then Easy asks for Mr. Carter's help. Easy is the only suspect the police have for the murders, and he needs Mr. Carter to help clear his name. Mr. Carter cooperates because Easy was the one who let Daphne live. That afternoon, Mr. Carter takes Easy to City Hall, where he talks to the assistant to the chief of police and the deputy mayor, Lawrence Wrightsmith, along with officers Mason and Miller.

Easy begins his story truthfully, but then tells the officials that Matthew Teran wanted Howard Green and Frank Green to kill Mr. Carter for ruining his chances at the mayor's race. But when they found thirty thousand dollars in Mr. Carter's office, they left without killing him. He makes it seem as though everyone involved was looking for Frank Green instead of Daphne Monet. He explains that Frank probably killed Teran to avenge Howard Green's death. After two hours of questioning, Easy still holds to his story and they let him go until the inquest, where he will be required to answer a few more questions before he case is closed. Miller stops Easy on his way out of City Hall. He demands to know whom Easy has left out of his story. This person is, of course, Junior, whose fingerprint the police have been unable to match. When Miller threatens to ruin Easy's life, he points the officer in Junior's direction. Easy recalls, "It might be the last moment of my adult life, spent free, was in that walk down the City Hall stairwell."

Chapter 31

We find Easy three months later, watering his garden while Odell looks on. Odell tells Easy that it makes him suspicious that Easy has not been looking for work. Easy tells Odell that he works for himself now, renting out a house he bought and working as a private eye. One of his clients is Mary White. When Ronald finally left her a few months before, Easy helped him find his way home. He also saved Ricardo from Rosetta's abuse by contacting the pool hall owner's sister. Of the dangers of his job, Easy quips, " ... You know a man could end up dead just crossin' the street. Least this way I say I earned it." Later that evening, Easy asks Odell: "If you know a man is wrong, I mean, if you know he did somethin' bad but you don't turn him in to the law because he's your friend, do you think that's right?" Odell replies, "All you got is your friends, Easy." Without using names, Easy asks if Odell thinks it is wrong that he turned Junior in and not Mouse. Odell says, "I guess you figure that that other guy got ahold of some bad luck." The two friends sit and laugh together at this joke.


The major revelation of Chapter 29 brings a new meaning to the theme of race and racial prejudice. For the whole of the mystery, Easy has believed -- as have others -- that Daphne is white. The only strange thing about her physically is her eye color, which shifts between blue and green and echoes her chameleon-like personality. Since Daphne and Frank are half-siblings, it is possible that Daphne does not actually have any black blood. She and Frank might share one white parent, making her technically white and him a mulatto. By her very identity, Daphne calls into question whether race is genetic or cultural. She is physically Caucasian, she enjoys black music and the company of black men. Still, she has been connected to white men like Richard McGee and Mr. Carter.

Daphne's ambiguous racial background helps explain her propensity to shape-shift and switch her personality. She acts like a chameleon because she feels like one, white in the way the world sees her and black in her kinship with Frank. Knowing Daphne's racial background makes her tale about the zebras even more poignant. Before leaving his sight, she tells Easy that her father never did take her to the zoo, but simply raped her at home until Frank killed him. If this is true, Daphne fabricated the story about the zebras. That Daphne would create such a desperate story about zebras speaks to her feelings of racial ambiguity. The zebras are both black and white; put differently, they are neither black nor white. Daphne is like a zebra, unable to blend fully with a white or black background despite her shape-shifting capacity. Not fitting in makes Daphne feel less human, as does her childhood sexual abuse. All she can do is follow her instinct, no matter who she hurts, steals from, or kills on the way.

The uneducated Mouse points out the significance of Daphne's predicament to Easy. He tells Easy that like Daphne, he is confused about his identity. But Mouse thinks that part of being black is being able to maim and kill. We know this because he tells Easy that he "acts white" when Easy tries to tell him that killing Joppy was gratuitous. Mouse thinks that his and Easy's attitudes toward violence separate them in a manner relating to race. In reality, their differing attitudes are the products of their temperaments and experiences. Mouse is naturally animalistic, as we know. He has lived his whole life feeling beaten down by others, and believes that violence and money are the best solutions to problems. Mosley's narrative does not judge Mouse. Yet it shows us the hopeless desperation of his life. Mouse has internalized the racist assumption that black people are murderous animals. Easy, on the other hand, understands the delicate games of death and race that drive his world. He does not accept himself as a "nigger" in Mouse's use of the word -- he is a man, not an animal, and though he finds himself in a racist, unfair world, he does what he can to preserve his humanity.

By the end of the novel, Easy has gained a powerful ally in Mr. Carter. Whereas during their first meeting, Mr. Carter subjected Easy to "the worst kind of racism," once Mr. Carter knows that Easy helped Daphne, he is willing to see him as a human being with legitimate problems instead of "a prized dog." Mr. Carter acts as a foil for Easy -- his dependance on Daphne sets of Easy's own dream of independence. Mr. Carter has financial security, but he wants desperately to depend on Daphne to comfort him and stand up for him. Easy needs no such crutch.

By the end of Devil in a Blue Dress, Easy has attained his goal of being a homeowner. Both Easy's actions and his company make this evident. Firstly, he is not just spending time at home, but literally cultivating it by watering the garden. Even though he has become a private investigator -- a life of uncertainty and danger -- he retains his deep pride in having financial stability. Indeed, Easy is ironically comfortable with danger, suggesting that the dream of self-sufficiency he always sought can be as naturally expressed in his dangerous profession as in a house of his own. Easy needs, and receives, both danger and stability.

At the novel's end, Easy is also back with his cautious friend, Odell. This suggests Easy's continuing comfort with simplicity and security even as he transitions to a life of complexity and thrills. In one sense, the novel's end suggests that Easy will never be free of his past experiences even as he moves forward. He still asks Odell for advice about how he treated Mouse and Junior. Yet the novel ultimately ends with the laughter of two friends. We can be sure that despite his misgivings about how the mystery turned out and the hardship he is sure to face in the future, Easy has attained his cherished dream of independence and joy.