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Restless Waters

Restless Waters, August 2005
Rachel Porter
by Jessica Speart

Avon
Featuring: Rachel Porter
304 pages
ISBN: 0060559551
Paperback
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"Listen closely, and sometimes you can hear Marty Stauffer narrating between the lines."

Fresh Fiction Review

Restless Waters
Jessica Speart

Reviewed by Christine Bertz
Posted January 8, 2006

Mystery

Rachel Porter has been slapped on the wrist before in the course of her work as an agent for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It's never stopped her, but it did get her a new posting in sunny Hawaii -- and a new boss, who believes firmly in not ruffling any feathers. Unfortunately for Norm Pryor, overlooking illegal trafficking in invasive species is the last thing Rachel Porter has in mind. When she discovers that exotic animals are being released on the islands, allowed to breed, and then captured for the pet trade, she is furious. But true horror comes when she begins to suspect that the policing agencies are aware of what's happening -- and are deliberately turning their heads. Neither the concerned advice of her friends nor the increasingly dire threats of her enemies will stop Porter from pursuing the truth.

Ms. Speart's grasp of environmental issues is formidable, and she clearly has a good understanding of the science behind her writing. (Alas, the same cannot be said for her knowledge of Star Wars, as Jabba the Hutt suffers consistent misspellings of his name.) The mystery unfolds at a believable pace, and the crimes in question are meaningful enough to stir the blood of anyone who cares for the earth. The novel's resolution contains the perfect mixture of satisfaction and frustration, leaving the way open for future adventures of Agent Rachel Porter. Fans of continuity will be glad to see reference to events of the previous eight Rachel Porter novels, as well as the reappearance of Porter's old acquaintance Vinnie Bertucci; and those new to the series will not find themselves feeling lost for long.

Overall, RESTLESS WATERS has all the makings of an excellent book... yet, somehow, it fails to live up to its promise. The recipe is right, but the final product lacks that vital sparkle that makes the difference between desperate airplane fare and a truly pleasant read. The characters are well-defined, but uninteresting; readers may find themselves indifferent regarding Porter's fate, just as the relationship between Porter and her boyfriend, FBI agent Jake Santou, is uninspiring. More compelling is the uncertain ground between Porter and her adversaries; the baddies are some of the best-written characters in the book. The novel also suffers from an overabundance of zoological factoids that makes it read more like a travel brochure or a biology textbook than a mystery. Paragraphs of narrative digression into the history of the Endangered Species Act, the cruelties of shark finning, or the feeding habits of veiled chameleons make it difficult to follow the storyline. Future Rachel Porter stories might be well-served by a shift to third-person perspective: Written in first-person, much of RESTLESS WATERS comes off as internal monologue, and it's difficult to believe that anyone -- even an agent for Fish and Wildlife -- actually thinks that way.

On the other hand, an attentive reader with a head for details will learn a great deal about Hawaiian politics and ecology. Listen closely, and sometimes you can hear Marty Stauffer narrating between the lines.

Learn more about Restless Waters

SUMMARY

For most people, Hawaii is heaven on Earth. But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Rachel Porter sees the rot beneath its natural splendor. Its pristine shores are harboring a new breed of criminal, those who would upset the fragile ecological balance in the name of profit ... those who would kill in the cause of greed.

On the trail of illegal traffickers in exotic animals, Rachel stumbles upon something far more insidious and frightening -- and a suspiciously shark-devoured human corpse that washes up on the rocks is only the beginning. Suddenly everyone wants her off a case that is too hot to handle. But she won't be warned, coaxed, or threatened away, even as the blood that darkens the tropical waters marks Rachel Porter as the most endangered creature in Paradise.


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