cover image Easier to Kill

Easier to Kill

Valerie Wilson Wesley. Putnam Adult, $23.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14445-5

Wesley again fashions an engrossing plot driven by the problems and multilayered culture of Newark, N.J.'s African American community (No Hiding Place, 1997). Tamara Hayle, former cop and now a PI, is hired by Mandy Magic, a popular black talk-radio hostess, to find out who has vandalized her office and sent her threatening notes. Tamara, operating on her instincts as usual, senses immediately that Mandy is fearful out of proportion to the problem. The murders of Mandy's hairstylist, Tyrone Mason, who was also her cousin, and of her closest friend, Pauline Reese, convince Tamara that the answer lies in a secret past that Mandy refuses to discuss. Drawing the truth out of her client is as difficult professionally and personally for Tamara as discovering who is threatening the woman. Tamara persists, finally figuring it out in an emotionally charged climax. Wesley tends to write long, meandering dialogue, but she's a standout in her ability to weave important social issues into her story, considering in this tale the rise of a black professional class from the old Newark housing projects, the desperation of teenage mothers, the bond of fathers and daughters. Literary Guild and Mystery Guild alternate selections. (Aug.)