Valerie Wilson Wesley's Easier to Kill
, the fifth novel in her increasingly popular Tamara Hayle series, continues to provide new twists to the classic gumshoe first-person narrative. Hayle is a Newark, New Jersey, PI, and also a struggling, young, African American single parent of a teenage boy, Jamal. In this outing, Hayle is summoned by Mandy Magic to take a case that could lead to a substantial contribution to Jamal's college fund. Magic (formerly Starmanda Jackson) has the most popular radio talk show in Essex County and a lifestyle that a struggling PI could only envy. But as Hayle probes the fears of her new client, she begins to see that this talk show host's world is hardly wine and roses. Magic's second "cousin" and stylist, Tyrone Mason, has just been murdered, and now Magic is particularly unnerved by a mysterious note reading simply "Movin' On Up." As Hayle digs deeper, she suspects that these and other events are hinged to Magic's misspent youth and her relationship to such characters as Rufus Greene, a former pimp. Unfortunately, Magic and her adopted daughter, Taniqua, are unwilling to cooperate in their own PI's investigation. What drives the mystery for Hayle (and the reader), then, is a profound curiosity about Mandy Magic's apparently sordid past. What is she hiding, and why would she hire a private detective if she didn't want her secrets revealed?
Wesley, a contributing editor to Essence magazine, has filled a major niche in the world of mystery fiction with her Hayle novels. Rendered with a down-to-earth realism and gritty charm reminiscent of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, Easier to Kill is a funky slice of life twisted around a mystery with a shockingly disturbing denouement. Other books in the Tamara Hayle series include When Death Comes Stealing, Devil's Gonna Get Him, Where Evil Sleeps, and No Hiding Place. --Patrick O'Kelley
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.