Tamara Hayle is one of the genre’s most interesting PIs, a hard-working single mother with a no- onsense approach to her work and a soft spot for kids. In The Devil Riding, the sixth outing for her series’ heroine, Valerie Wilson Wesley turns in what may be her breakout book.Tamara is working undercover in Atlantic City, looking for a missing teenager whose wealthy parents seem to have ambivalent feelings about finding her, and as Tamara gets closer to the action and more pretty young girls keep turning up dead, she begins to understand why. Gabriella Desmond is the stepdaughter of a wealthy businessman who’s something of a hero in the African American community, and there are a few skeletons in the Desmond background he doesn’t want exposed, regardless of his wife’s concerns about Gabriella. And Gabriella’s real father is a right-wing firebrand whose anti-abortion politics are as central to the plot as the Desmond family secrets. Amid the gaudy glitter of the casinos, Tamara befriends a scared girl who may know what happened to Gabriella, and she snags a lead to the other killings that are clearly tied into Gabriella’s disappearance. She also runs into Basil Dupre, who she last saw lying in a pool of blood on a balcony in Jamaica. This fascinating, sexy, strong-willed man has the ability to bring Tamara’s passion to life unlike anyone else. He may not be someone a girl can count on for the long haul, but before this well-written story is finished, you’ll understand why he’s worth it. If The Devil Riding is your first encounter with Tamara Hayle, you’ll soon be searching for Wesley’s backlist, starting with When Death Comes Stealing.
– Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
What looks like a simple case–tracing a teenage runaway–has PI Tamara Hayle not only frustrated but ultimately terrified in her sixth outing (after Easier to Kill) in this strong ethnic series. Dominique Desmond, second wife to the scion of one of New Jersey’s wealthiest black families, asks Tamara to find her rebellious daughter, Gabriella, who was last seen in Atlantic City. Despite the curious hostility of Dominique’s high-profile husband and his son, Tamara decides to take the case, driven by both her need for the lucrative fee and her desire to stop a serial killer preying on runaways in the Jersey coastal resort. Although confident that her ethnic identity will help her form ties within the city’s black community, she is sadly mistaken. While she can be shamelessly flirtatious (masquerading as a bartender), profoundly pious (trying to glean information from Dominique) or even egregiously untruthful (practically all the time), Tamara discovers little. Yet she does find that the city’s crime lord, the sinister Delmundo had ties to all the young murder victims, and that he now has his malevolent eyes on her. And the members of the Desmond family, who abruptly dismiss her from the case, are definitely hiding secrets of their own. While the novel may be philosophically trite (“We all have good and bad within us”), Tamara’s hard-hearted relentlessness, a stellar cast of peripheral characters and a gripping plot add up to fine reading.
– Agent, Faith H. Childs. (June)
In her sixth adventure, Newark PI Tamara Hayle takes a job looking for 18-year-old Gabriella Desmond, whose wealthy parents, mother Dominique and stepfather Foster, seem curiously at odds about the young woman’s disappearance. Foster believes the whole thing is a prank, but Dominique clearly thinks something is very wrong; and Gabriella’s older half-brother, Carver, seems almost desperate to find his half-sister. The trail leads Tamara to Atlantic City, where runaway girls and prostitutes are being victimized by what appears to be a serial killer on the loose. Tamara soon discovers that one of Gabriella’s friends fell off–or was thrown from–a balcony, and her last known roommate has been murdered. Despite a plot that occasionally strays too far into melodrama, the novel is rescued by Wesley’s solid characterizations (especially the captivating Tamara), well-realized setting, and authentic depiction of teenage runaways. Not the best in the series but solid entertainment all the same.
– Stuart Miller