Los Angeles, 1961. Kennedy is in the White House and King is marching down South. It's a new day for many blacks in America - but not for Easy Rawlins.
Easy's small real estate empire is in trouble and he is facing bankruptcy when Saul Lynx, an oily white private eye, offers him $200 to track down on Elizabeth Eady, a.k.a. "Black Betty." The sensuous Betty was a housekeeper for an immensely wealthy Beverly Hills family - but now has mysteriously disappeared.
Easy takes the job, but he also has to deal with his murderous sidekick Mouse, who's just been released from Chino prison. Mouse was sent up for manslaughter, and he wants Easy to help him find the ones who gave him up to the police.
Finding Betty seems a simple enough task, but nothing about this woman is as simple as it appears to be. Easy soon finds out her trail is paved with blood - and he might be the next victim of her deadly charms.