cover image The Devil Riding

The Devil Riding

Valerie Wilson Wesley. Putnam Adult, $23.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14617-6

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 R al, 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)