Gator Aide by Jessica Speart

948219Fiction — print. Avon Books, 1997. 304 pgs. Received from PaperBackSwap.

Rachel Porter’s first major case after months chasing bird poachers on the bayou brings her to infamous French Quarter in New Orleans to deal with a dead alligator chained to a bathtub — not far from an equally dead stripper.

But when Rachel discovers that an overdose of heroin-stuffed condoms — and not the five bullet holes in the gator’s head — was the true cause of its demise, the inquisitive agent finds herself perilously caught up in both murder investigations.

This book is the first in the Rachel Porter series, introducing us to the main character and explaining how she came to be a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent. The background information helps clear up some questions I had after reading a mystery that occurs later in the series.

Once again, Speart’s novel starts out strong, muddles through the middle, and then concludes in a rather intriguing way. It’s the muddling that consigns the book to being labeled as good but not great. Even so, Speart’s descriptions of her settings are masterful — New Orleans sounds like a wild place. Complex characters and an intriguing mystery kept me turning the pages long after I would have normally become frustrated with the muddling pace and given up.

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