July 21, 2003 12:00 PM

By Walter Mosley

Fear and self-loathing mark Mosley’s second novel about World War II vet Fearless Jones and his bookish buddy Paris Minton. After Fearless tells an attractive woman he’ll find her missing husband (who incidentally is Fearless’s employer), he and Paris discover a trail of deceptions, kidnappings and temptations that seemingly tie a family of eccentric black millionaires to the grisly murders of two rich, white siblings.

As always, a brisk pace and Mosley’s wry prose (“She was like an overripe peach on your favorite tablecloth-bound to leave a stain”) mix with racial commentary about ’50s L.A. Only repetitive passages highlighting Fearless’s intuition and strength and Paris’s interminable bouts of self-doubt and timidity hamper this clever tale about the lies people tell to themselves and each other. (Little, Brown, $24.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Frightfully effective

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