PI Tamara Hayle is a tough, badass lady when facing down dangerous bad guys. When it comes to helping troubled teenagers, however, she takes on the role of a caring parent. The caring parent is on full display as she goes undercover to search for the runaway girl from a wealthy family in The Devil Riding, Valerie Wilson Wesley’s sixth novel in her Tamara Hayle series.
Dominique Desmond, the wife of wealthy Foster Desmond, hires Tamara to find her 18-year-old runaway daughter, Gabriella. Dominique didn’t go to the police because Foster said it would brand Gabriella as a runaway and embarrass the family name for people to know she's a troubled child.
Dominique thinks she ran away with a boy called Rook and is in danger. She learned that Gabriella shared an apartment in Atlantic City with Layne Grimaldi, a young woman Gabriella’s age, from someone who called her and gave her the number of the apartment. News reports in Atlantic City speculated that a serial killer on the loose might have killed Layne. The killer had murdered five women. Dominique worried that Gabriella would be next.
As the interview with Dominique ends, Foster and his son Carver enter the room. He is Gabriella’s stepfather, and Dominique is his second wife. Tamara’s immediate impression of him is he is the husband who most be obeyed. He seems unconcerned about Gabriella’s disappearance. Instead of providing any information, he orders Tamara to send her reports to the lawyer who recommended her and warns her not to fudge on the expenses. She suspects his attitude toward Gabriella might be the reason she ran away.
Young Carver walks with Tamara to her car. He seems not to care about Gabriella but, nevertheless, asks Tamara to call him first if she finds her because he must tell her something.
After not having any luck finding where Gabriella might have gone after leaving Layne’s apartment, Tamara goes undercover as a bartender in a suite in an Atlantic City hotel. In the suite Delmundo Real, a Dominican with a bad reputation, hosts card games for gangsters. The hotel manager tells her teenage girls have been seen going in and out of the suite. Tamara befriends Amaretta, a 16-year-old girl who tries to buy a drink. She watches Amaretta exit the suite in the company of Delmundo. Her mothering instinct kicks-in, and she begins thinking of how to rescue Amaretta as well as Gabriella. Tamara suspects, though Amaretta denies it, that she knows Gabriella.
Gabriel Wallace, Gabriella’s biological father, is no help. She came by his house but he claims not to know where she is. He isn’t worried because the Lord will protect her. However, his white wife, Louella, with whom Gabriella had been in contact, gives Tamara the address of Gabriella’s friend Jayne with whom she shared an apartment after Layne was killed. Gabriella left Jayne’s place without paying her share of the rent.
Jayne is later killed, and her death is attributed to the serial killer. Since there is no news of Gabriella being harmed, Tamara assumes she is alive and she must find her before the serial killer does. She also feels she must save Amaretta from Delmundo, whom she believes might be involved in the killings.
Though he doesn’t rescue her this time, Tamara’s complicated and enigmatic romantic interest, Basil Dupre, again enters the picture and warns her about the dangerous Dominican Delmundo Real. When she accuses him of being as dangerous and bad as Delmundo, he gives a lecture on good and evil as a way of explaining why he is not like Real. For the reader, the lecture reflects on what happens in the central plot—Tamara’s search for Gabriella.
The Devil Riding asks the question “how do we recognize the face of evil?” Once Tamara recognizes it through the revelation of the Desmond’s secrets, it shocks her. It also will shock you.