cover image Gator Aide

Gator Aide

Jessica Speart. Avon Books, $5.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-380-79288-7

A disillusioned actress moves from New York to Louisiana to work as a federal Fish and Wildlife agent and finds herself hip-deep in alligators, poachers and murder in this vivid debut mystery by freelance journalist Speart, who specializes in wildlife enforcement issues. Rachel Porter is drawn into the brutal murder of a prostitute when she discovers that the woman's alligator is also dead. Although Rachel's crabby supervisor, another sexy but enigmatic police detective and the entrenched old-boy network seem determined to relegate Rachel to the sidelines, she plunges ahead with her investigation--straight into deadly peril. The writing is palpably atmospheric (""the air, heavy with humidity, broke like a giant sponge that had been squeezed""), and the brooding swamp itself becomes a memorable character. This isn't a whodunit--the identity of the killer is revealed early on--but Speart nevertheless manages to maintain both tension and action throughout. The reader can't help but root for world-weary Rachel and her damaged friends, especially her self-deprecating transvestite landlord, as they struggle to make sense of a capricious world. (Sept.)