Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley | Review

Posted March 20, 2018 by Asheley in review / 0 Comments

Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley | ReviewDown the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley
Published by Mulholland Books on February 20, 2018
Pages: 336
Source: the publisher
Narrator: Dion Graham
Length: 7 hours, 44 minutes
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From trailblazing novelist Walter Mosley: a former NYPD cop once imprisoned for a crime he did not commit must solve two cases: that of a man wrongly condemned to die, and his own.

Joe King Oliver was one of the NYPD's finest investigators, until, dispatched to arrest a well-heeled car thief, he is framed for assault by his enemies within the NYPD, a charge which lands him in solitary at Rikers Island.

A decade later, King is a private detective, running his agency with the help of his teenage daughter, Aja-Denise. Broken by the brutality he suffered and committed in equal measure while behind bars, his work and his daughter are the only light in his solitary life. When he receives a card in the mail from the woman who admits she was paid to frame him those years ago, King realizes that he has no choice but to take his own case: figuring out who on the force wanted him disposed of--and why.

Running in parallel with King's own quest for justice is the case of a Black radical journalist accused of killing two on-duty police officers who had been abusing their badges to traffic in drugs and women within the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Joined by Melquarth Frost, a brilliant sociopath, our hero must beat dirty cops and dirtier bankers, craven lawyers, and above all keep his daughter far from the underworld in which he works. All the while, two lives hang in the balance: King's client's, and King's own.

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I also purchased a copy of the audiobook from Audible using my own money. Receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not affect my opinion of this book nor did it affect the content of my review in any way.


Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley was an awesome introduction into the work of Walter Mosley. These days, I live for complicated cop or detective stories and Joe King Oliver fits solidly into that category. King is a former NYPD cop that was unfairly framed by someone else on the force. He was sent to Rikers where he was initially placed in the general population with many of the criminals he helped put away. After sustaining some life-threatening injuries at the hands of other inmates, which left him scarred both emotionally and physically, King was placed in solitary confinement for his own safety. He spent several long, lonely months there before he was finally set free by his partner, Gladstone. Unfortunately, King lost not only his position with the NYPD but also his retirement and pension. His former partner Gladstone helped him establish his own business as a private detective, which is where King currently works. His teenage daughter, Aja-Denise, works in the office with him.

Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

King takes on two jobs as a private detective: that of an accused cop-killer with a complicated case and no representation plus the investigation into his own case from when he was framed and sent to prison. King hires Melquath Frost, a hardened criminal with some mental issues and a complicated past history, to help him with these investigations. These two set out on a pretty dark and twisted path to exposing the truth — learning that these two cases are connected.

I love that King and Mel are willing to go all out to seek out the truth. Sure, the law is the law, but King is out for actual justice and that’s hard to come by when you’re bound by a corrupt law enforcement agency as your support. His partner Mel is already a bit on the shady side, what with his questionable past, his proven disregard for the law, and his delicate mental status. One thing that I love about King and Mel working together is that they trust one another – their rapport was established early on and neither of these two men have much to lose. They are really a powerhouse when they work together except for that little shady spot of — the legality of what they are doing at the moment: is this the right thing or is it the legal thing?


As much as I love King’s relationship with Mel, his relationship with his daughter Aja-Denise genuinely stole my heart. (I have a soft spot for father-daughter relationships.) Aja-Denise was a young child when King was sent to prison, and his ex-wife left him and took Aja-Denise because of the nature of his ‘crime’ – it took a long time for King to re-build a healthy relationship with his daughter because his ex-wife made things so difficult for him. Now that they’re close: they are really close and it is delightful. The interactions King has with Aja-Denise are great for breaking up some tense moments and conversations throughout the rest of the story. She’s such a great, fun character and I genuinely loved all of the scenes these two shared. There are some wonderful quotes and thoughts that King has about Aja-Denise in this story, just little things that he thinks to himself or maybe utters to someone else, and I think these feelings really show how nuanced he his as a character.

King is coming from a very broken place, he has so much anger and resentment to work through because of was done to him and what he lost, and yet he is able to love his daughter so purely and unconditionally that it overshadows everything else and he has this remarkable working relationship with Mel that is something unique and spectacular. I’m really hoping to see more from these characters. I think (I hope) there is more to Joe King Oliver’s story.

Down the River Unto the Sea was a quick read, and simple. I can’t get over how much I loved the ending – I wasn’t expecting things to work out in that way at all, but I’m so excited about how everything turned out. My only reason for not giving five stars is that there are so many characters – secondary characters with small roles – that I had a hard time keeping up with them all and who they were exactly to King’s two ongoing investigations. I eventually had to stop trying to remember why every character was important and just pay attention to the main characters instead. This worked, but it made reading a little more cumbersome.

Audiobook Notes:

Once I realized that I was having trouble keeping up with the characters in Down the River Unto the Sea, I looked up the audiobook information. When I saw that Dion Graham narrates, I one-clicked and bought my own copy via Audible. Dion Graham is just fabulous and his narration is so worth the credit spent. He brings the voice of a cop/detective to this story so well, and the emotions he used when King felt angry or betrayed were perfect. The scenes between King and his daughter were my favorites; Dion’s narration was fantastic for that of a father speaking to or about his daughter that he loves so much.

Title: Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Length: 7 hours, 44 minutes, Unabridged

About Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley Author Photo

Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than 43 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 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.


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


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