cover image No Hiding Place

No Hiding Place

Valerie Wilson Wesley. Putnam Publishing Group, $21.95 (207pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14318-2

The fourth outing of Newark, N.J., PI Tamara Hayle (Where Evil Sleeps, 1996, etc.) is driven more by Wesley's obvious compassion for the people of inner-city Newark than by her plotting. Tamara, a black single mother, agrees to look into the murder of Shawn Raymond at the request of the dead man's mother. It's not her typical case, but Tamara feels obligated because, 18 years earlier, her brother Johnny, a policeman, took young Shawn under his wing. But after Johnny committed suicide, Tamara lost track of the Raymonds. The adult Shawn left a troubled teenage son, Rayshawn, whose crimes begin and end the book. Shawn also had affairs with the twin daughters of Gus Lennox, a retired tradition-breaking black cop still revered in the inner city. The relationships among characters get still more complicated: Gus has two brothers, one of whom is in jail and the other of whom, Ben, is an old flame of Tamara's. While sorting through this collection of suspects, all of whom have motives but also unbreakable alibis, Tamara tries to ignore her emotions about Ben. When she finally cracks the case, she does so more by chance than by skill. Wesley's plot is thin, but Tamara's consistently sharp, honest voice carries the book forward as it delves into complex social issues--notably the rise of an African American middle class and its troubled relationship to the inner city on which many of its members have turned their backs. Literary Guild and Mystery Guild alternate selections; author tour. (Sept.)