cover image Tortoise Soup

Tortoise Soup

Jessica Speart. Avon Books, $5.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-380-79289-4

U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent Rachel Porter transfers from New Orleans to Las Vegas following her first outing in Gator Aide. Investigating the disappearance of 350 desert tortoises from a research center, the junk-food-munching Rachel lands in the midst of disputes involving environmentalists, developers and ranchers. But she suspects something more is going on after someone kills an elderly woman rancher and helicopters are reported flying over the desert at night. Rachel's personal life also gets a workout; she's torn between a handsome mine manager and her long-distance boyfriend, a New Orleans police detective. Speart's need to situate Rachel as a loner leads to some credibility gaps: Her office--a federal facility--is bombed, but there's no FBI investigation; a police investigator agrees to Rachel's request to delay reporting a discovery that could have major public health implications. But still the author portrays the stark atmosphere of Nevada as vividly as she did the lusher one of New Orleans and once again there are plenty of appealingly eccentric characters not the least of which is Rachel herself. (June)