July 5, 2016

Don’t Talk To Strangers

In the detective novel, we watch the investigator practice the art of detection. When there is nothing to detect, it is not a detective novel. In Where Evil Sleeps, the third novel in Wesley’s Tamara Hayle series, our heroine’s problem is not finding a killer but how to avoid being accused of murder and, most importantly, escaping two men who think she has their money. The novel is, therefore, a thriller.

 As I was reading the novel, I wanted to yell at Tamara, “girl, didn’t your grandma tell you don’t talk to strangers when she told you the devil would get his due?” On vacation in Kingston, Jamaica, she walks straight into trouble with her eyes wide open when she reluctantly accepts the invitation of young woman staying in the same hotel. Twenty-three-year-old Lilah Love persuades her to go to the Stamp and Go Club with her, her husband Sammy Lee Love, and his friend Delaware Brown.

Inside the club, Tamara immediately senses trouble brewing when she notices three teenage thugs profiling in their hoodies and baggy pants and three men standing at the bar, two black and one white. Lacey, one of the black men, is a friend of Delaware Brown, whom he will later involve in a scheme to steal a black bag full of money. Trouble starts when the heavy drinking Sammy Lee accuses Delaware and Lilah of having an affair. He also accuses Delaware of double-crossing him. Suddenly, the lights go out and shooting starts. Tamara dives under the table, wishing that she had listened to her grandma’s voice.

When the lights come back on, blood is dripping on the floor and the hem of her dress. She crawls from under the table and discovers that Sammy Lee is dead, stabbed through the heart. Lilah and Delaware are missing. So is her Kenya bag with her money, passport and identification in it. She realizes she is a suspect in Sammy Lee’s death. She’ll have to dodge the Kingston police while trying to figure how she is going to get back home to Newark. But first, she has to get out of the club and back to her hotel room.

Coincidentally, Basil Dupre, whom we met in When Death Comes Stealing, is in Jamaica to bury his mother. In Newark he was the bad boy type whom Tamara almost slept with. He rescues her from the club and takes her back to her hotel. His cousin who works at the hotel sneaks Tamara back into her room.

Soon after Tamara returns to her room, Lilah bangs on the door. She wants Tamara to come back with her to Delaware’s place to get what she claims is her money. Tamara, again against her better judgment, accompanies Lilah. In her search of the place, Tamara finds Delaware dead in the bathroom. She looks for Lilah and discovers she has escaped through an open window. Lilah’s disappearance means Tamara is the only person who can connect the two dead men.

Returning to her hotel room, Tamara follows two guys she suspects are cops to Lilah’s room. She can’t get inside, but she sees Lilah’s red panties and a dress lying on the floor and assumes she is dead. Back in her room, she receives a phone call from a man asking where is his money. She finally realizes she needs help immediately, and calls Basil. He takes her to a house in the mountains that belongs to his friend Noel. Although she is still pissed at him for lying to her about himself, she accepts his offer to help.

The house is where our heroine will confront the real evil who is also searching for the bag of money.

The long passages of description about her relationship with Basil slow the pace of Where Evil Sleeps. Upon first reading, I thought the scenes were padding, but after further consideration, I realized Basil’s appearance is a plot device used to give the sense of time passing. Wilson does not subordinate plot to an exploration of Basil's character. The slow pace builds suspense and forces us to wait for the climax when Tamara will face the evil.

I like Where Evil Sleeps for the action that doesn’t involve any detecting. We get to watch Tamara exhibit some physical skills in this action thriller.