November 5, 2016

Best Friends Forever

Before the Flowers of Friendship Faded Friendship Faded
      Gertrude Stein
Friendship is very precious and we like to believe when we’re in high school that our friendships will last forever. Of course, few of us have friendships from high school that last. The worse thing about friendship is breaking up on unfriendly terms.

In Dying In The Dark, the seventh novel in Valerie Wilson Wesley’s Tamara Hayle series, for three straight nights Tamara dreams about Celia Jones, a childhood friend. They were like sisters until the friendship ended over a man. The dreams began a month after an unknown killer had shot Celia on New Years Day. In the dreams Celia cries out for Tamara’s help. 

Two weeks after the dreams stop, Celia’s teenage son Cecil Jones, who found his mother’s body, wants to hire Tamara to find out who killed her. He came to her because he found her name in his mother’s notebook and he doesn’t trust the police to investigate the death of an unimportant black woman. He pays Tamara $400 as a retainer and promises to pay her more. Of course she wonders where or how a teenager would get so much money. 

When Tamara tries to contact him the next day, she learns an unknown assailant killed him. She agonizes over what to do with the $400. She doesn’t want to give it to Cecil’s ex-convict father Brent Liston. Her sense of obligation kicks in when she thinks about Celia’s cry for help in the dream. They once were close friends. She will do what she was paid to do: find Celia’s killer and maybe Cecil’s also.

Naturally, Tamara disagrees with the local police detective investigating the two murders. Tamara suspects prominent businessman Drew Sampson killed Celia because she had an affair with his wife Annette. Detective Griffin, whom she knows from another case, tells her the evidence points to Annette as the killer, but he doesn’t have a motive. The police know who killed Cecil and concluded his death had no connection to Celia’s murder. Tamara is not so certain and continues her investigation into both murders. The only evidence she has is Celia’s notebook in which she wrote the letters ABCD. She thinks if she can figure out what the letters stand for she’ll have the name of the killer. 
The investigation reveals things about her former best friend that Tamara never knew, including the fact she had a son. She also learns that when they were freshmen in high school Celia had her first sexual experience with one of the three big men on campus. Those three were seniors Drew Sampson, Larry Walton, and Clayton Donovan, all of whom went on to become important men in the community. Could one of them have killed Celia for fear she would reveal damaging information about him?

Wesley does an admirable job of delaying the identity of the killer until the thrilling last chapter. You will enjoy Dying in the Dark because it is one of those novels you won’t want to put down, not even to rest your eyes for a minute.