Jessica Speart's __Unsafe Harbor__, the 9th in her Rachel Porter
Fish and Wildlife Agent series, is a wildlife mystery thriller, a new
genre that, unlike traditional mysteries, brings wild animals into the
foreground. As Speart, credited with creating the category, points out,
"The endangered species trade actually does include the very elements
required of any good mystery-intrigue, murder, suspense, back-stabbing,
and greed," and "U. S. Fish and Wildlife special agents are trained
detectives, only instead of investigating the murder of humans, they
unravel crimes perpetrated against wildlife."
While wildlife mystery thrillers share many attributes of
traditional mysteries, there are also differences. Traditional
mysteries seldom feature investigators dedicated to protecting wild
animals and their habitats from criminals, seldom give prominence to
wild animal characters, and seldom focus on wildlife issues. Because
they focus on such issues, wildlife mystery thrillers are "mysteries
with a message" (see Aileen Jacobson "Crime Novels that Crusade"
www.jessicaspeart.com/newsday.html) but they are also more.
Information about issues such as the illegal trade in exotic animals and
animal parts or destruction of wildlife habitat, is basic to the genre.
But even more essential is making the reader care as much as the
investigators care about the victims of the crime. And that means the
author must find ways to make endangered wild creatures become as real
to readers as they become to their investigators as they work through
the mystery basic to the novel's plot.
What distinguishes wildlife mystery thrillers from all other
mystery genres, then, is the success their authors achieve in making
their readers hear and respond to what, in "War Within" Speart refers to
as "silent screams," the voices of nonhuman victims of illegal and
illicit action (Speart, Jessica. 1993. "War Within." Buzzworm: The
Environmental Journal V: 4(July-August): 36-85).
Interested in more about the genre? See my "'Critter Crusaders'":
Wildlife Mystery Thriller Series," __Society & Animals__ 12: 2 (2004):
Author: Jessica Speart
Jessica, as NILAS members who attended the Springfield IL
Conference in August 2005 know, is as lively and engaging in person as
on the page. Training as an actor makes Jessica a particularly
effective speaker and an equally effective creator of characters and
character interaction. Her U. S. Fish and Wildlife Agent, Rachel
Porter, is, like Jessica lively and engaging. And, like Jessica, she
cares deeply about the voiceless victims she is pledged to protect.
Experience has made her all too aware of the obstacles lying between
caring and actually making a difference in their lives.
A trip to Africa convinced Speart to abandon acting in order to
give voice to the voiceless animal species being victimized around the
world. After researching and writing articles about Betsy Dressler's
efforts to save endangered species and about Ken Goddard's forensics
lab, the first to specialize in wildlife, Speart decided to concentrate
on the gargantuan task that faces U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents. She
sees the Rachel Porter series as an effective way of making the public
aware of the odds against both wildlife and wildlife agents largely
because reading mysteries is fun-ironically, unthreatening. Each Speart
novel tackles new issues and new "critters" and demands and gets
research as intense and extensive as did any one of her wildlife
For more about Jessica Speart, see her website: