Tamara Hayle is never going to be as rich as the Desmonds, one of Newark, New Jersey's most affluent and influential black families. But the struggling p.i. wouldn't want their troubles either, now that their rebellious daughter Gabriella has run off to Atlantic City, where a serial killer is prowling the streets. For a substantial fee, however, Tamara's willing to join the hunt for the missing African-American heiress expecially after Gabriella's last known roommate joins the ranks of the murdered. Somwhere in the twilight zone that separates the poor and the wealthy of color in the terrifying shadow of a deadly criminal kingpin are shocking secrets that Tamara needs to uncover. And suddenly the Desmonds' woes lethal and devastating have become Tamara's own.
About the Author
Valerie Wilson Wesley is the author of the novels Always True to You in My Fashion and Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do, winner of the 2000 Best Fiction Award of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, as well as the nationally bestselling Tamara Hayle mystery series. A contributing editor at Essence magazine, her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ms. and the New York Times. She lives in New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
It was half past midnight on a Friday night the witching hour, my dead grandma used to call it. I was tending bar in a gangster's suite in a glitzy Atlantic City hotel. I'd stuffed myself into a black silk sheath as snug as it was expensive and was pouring drinks, grinning like a fool. But I was scared.
I was looking for a young runaway named Gabriella Desmond whose rich parents had paid me serious money to find out where she'd run. The trail had led me here but the girl didn't want to be found so I had to earn my money the hard way with tact and discretion. No P.I. license flashed. No probing questions. At least not yet.
I hadn't looked for many runaways, but the few cases I'd taken had turned out well. There had been a troubled little druggie from Essex Fells whom I'd helped get into rehab; an angry ten-year-old whose recently remarried mama forgot to tell him that she loved him; a smart-mouthed Newark teen whose tough-talking daddy cried like a baby when he held her in his arms again. They had all been found easily and in predictable places: a sympathetic friend's bedroom, a deserted basement, a video parlor, a fast-food joint. They'd come home easily and been welcomed by parents who swore they'd mend their ways and never let them leave again.
I had my doubts about this new one, though. Gabriella Desmond had taken off the first week in November. It was March now, and her trail was decidedly cold. She was eighteen years old and whatever had chased her away would probably chase her again if she wasn't yet ready to face it down. I had my doubtsabout the Desmonds, too'why they waited so long to call me, if they had told me the whole truth, how they would treat her if she actually came back. But I had no doubt that the girl was in more danger than she could possibly know. She'd run to a fun-loving city in dangerous times, and she was young, pretty and rich, a combination that will make a victim out of a woman quicker than hot grease catches fire. And there was a killer on the streets. There was no doubt about that, either.
His victims were young prostitutes, runaways mostly, who were likely to have had a passing acquaintance. The murders were brutal, ruthless and all committed near the end of the week. The first woman had been murdered on the first Friday in November, and there had been four since then, one killing a month. The murder scenes had been wiped clean, with no souvenirs taken or brutal signatures left to bait the cops and feed some sick, sadistic hunger. The women had been beaten to death and their bodies discovered well after the fact, tucked out of the way in hidden places. At least that had been the case up until the most recent victim, who'd been found in her own home, suggesting, perhaps, that this killer was changing directions, growing bolder with his success.
Folks had started to grumble that the police weren't doing enough because the murder victims were poor and black or Latino, so nobody in high places really gave a damn one way or the other. But the fifth girl was white. Her name was Layne Grimaldi and, like two of the others, she had been killed on a Friday, but she had been found in the apartment she shared with another young woman Gabriella Desmond. At their lawyer's suggestion, the Desmonds called me the Saturday after Layne's body was found and hired me the following Monday. They were afraid their runaway daughter might be the next victim, and they were determined to find her before the murderer struck again.
The first few days in town, I'd visited the traditional places homeless teenagers hide: Covenant House, the boardwalk, fast-food restaurants offering cheap food and video games. I'd had no luck, and it was time to go in another direction. My good friend Jake, a public defender, put me in touch with a hotel manager who owed him a favor, and the man had arranged for me to tend bar at a high-stakes poker game thrown for big-time players and small-time hoods. The host was a man named Delmundo Real and the manager hinted that if I kept my eyes open and mouth shut I might find a lead on Gabriella. Pretty young girls with nowhere to go routinely decorated Real's parties, so if Gabriella was still in town chances were she'd show up there. At worst, I might come across someone who'd crossed paths with her. The manager also warned me that if anything bad went down I'd be on my own. I'd given him a tough-girl shrug and told him I could take care of myself. Truth was, I wasn't so sure.
But I'd been in the party since nine, and although my hands were shaking when I mixed the drinks, nobody seemed to notice my fear. Straight scotch or gin and juice were the cocktails of the hour, and I poured them fast and free. I kneeled down to pick up a napkin a drunk had aimed at the trash can behind me when a young woman sauntered up to the bar and requested a drink.
"Amaretto. Neat," she said in a baby-soft voice.
"Neat?" I stood up to face her. She was dressed in a short red dress that was tighter than mine, which was saying something that shouldn't be said. Her hair was piled high on her head and glossy black curls cascaded into a face that, despite too much makeup, looked younger than she wanted folks to know...
The Devil Riding. Copyright © by Valerie Wesley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read all of the Tamara Hayle books. I have always enjoyed them. I find that I can read Ms. Wesley's books very easily. I finished this one in approximately 6 hours. The determination in Tamara and the caring way she approches her cases is what interests me, but more than that its the men in her life, the way Basil pops in and out and always at the appropriate moment enchants me. Who wouldn't want a man like that in her life? What about Jake? Will they, won't they? I'll be sure to read the next Tamara Hayle mystery to find out. DPJ
The Devil Riding was an awesome read!! It kept me wondering until the very end. Even with my busy schedule, I am always able to complete a Tamara mystery within the week...this one took me only a couple of days. I am ready for the next one! Valerie Wilson-Wesley is an eloquent mystery writer and The Devil Riding is one of her best!!
Wesley's latest installment in the Tamara Hayle series is a great read. I have read all of them, and I think this is the best one to date. There are plenty of plot twists and turns, a realistic, down-to-earth heroine, and of course, the fine, just-what-you-need-on-a-cold,-scary-night, Basil Dupre. Loved it!
Tamara Hayes is a beautiful African-American woman, raising a son by herself. She earns a living as a private detective, traveling to wherever the job requires her to go. This time she is in Atlantic City looking for a teenage runaway belonging to an influential family. As she searches for the eighteen-year old, Tamara wonders why four months passed before someone hired anyone. Tamara is shocked to learn that she has been employed only because someone brutally murdered Gabrielle Desmond¿s roommate and six other runaways. Tamara goes undercover at a coveted party hosted by a person who preys on the depravations of others. He provides victims to his clients to use as they see fit. Tamara is stunned to find her sometimes lover, mercenary Basil DuPre, attending the same party. Basil thinks Tamara is in over her head with this case. However, the tough Tamara intends to see the case through to its¿ completion although it means running over her clients, her lover, and a monster that devours innocents. In THE DEVIL RIDING, highly acclaimed author Valerie Wilson Wesley brings the ambiance and decadence of Atlantic City into the forefront. Although a mystery, the literary prose gives the tale a mainstream feel. Tamara never seems to accept an easy case, but this one appears even more difficult than usual because several different crimes muddy the water. Ms. Wesley never writes a poor novel, but this one is extraordinary as she describes the middle class African-American experience inside a well-designed detective story. Harriet Klausner