February 6, 2017
NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Jana DeLeon grew up in southwest Louisiana among the bayous and gators, an area that has been dear to her heart as evidenced by the setting of her Miss Fortune Mystery Series. DeLeon provides intermittent comic relief between pages filled with so much suspense that her reader finds it difficult to put the book aside. At the beginning of Later Gator, DeLeon encourages the reader to begin the series by reading Louisiana Longshot. However, if you have not done so, she provides the reader with a brief character description of the citizens of Sinful, Louisiana, as follows:
“Fortune Redding – a CIA assassin with a price on her head from one of the world’s most deadly arms dealers. Because her boss suspects that a leak at the CIA blew her cover, he sends her to hide out in Sinful, Louisiana, posing as his niece, a librarian and ex-beauty queen named Sandy-Sue Morrow.
“Ida Belle and Gertie – served in the military in Vietnam as spies, but no one in the town is aware of that fact except Fortune and Deputy LeBlanc.
“Sinful Ladies Society – local group founded by Ida Belle, Gertie, and deceased member Marge. In order to gain membership, women must never have married, or if widowed, their husband must have been deceased for at least ten years.
“Sinful Ladies Cough Syrup – sold as an herbal medicine in Sinful, which is dry, but it’s actually moonshine manufactured by the Sinful Ladies Society.”
First impressions can be deceiving. Sinful appears to be a small, sleepy, boring town with people who need to enter the twenty-first century. Fortune discovers that her first opinion of the town is wrong. When a dead body is found in a pirogue, Fortune is drawn into a murder investigation to prove that the young man who has been arrested is innocent.
Ida Belle and Gertie have become close friends with Fortune, and between Ida Belle’s attempts to run the town and Fortune’s sense of justice, the three women get into one scrape after another. Pragmatic Ida Belle likes fast cars, fast boats, fast responses. Gertie moves at a slower pace, but is quick to come up with clever disguises as the three women go underground to right wrongs.
The reader has to wonder whether or not Gertie used her disguises while serving her country in Vietnam. Much to Fortune’s dismay, if Gertie plans an escapade, the reader can anticipate that things will go awry and that Deputy LeBlanc will catch Fortune in an embarrassing situation, most of which are both dangerous and humorous.
For instance, the three women decide to disguise themselves and go to the Swamp Bar. They are on a mission to discover the identity of the person or persons poaching young alligators. Of course, trouble rears its ugly head in the shape of a bar brawl. The three women manage their getaway before the police arrive. Safely ensconced at Ida Belle’s house, Ida Belle says,“ I never did like makeup. Makes my skin itch, but it’s a good thing we looked the way we did tonight. Hopefully, no one recognized Gertie. Otherwise, we’re in a heap of trouble.”
Besides trying to solve mysteries, Fortune does double duty trying to keep the two older women out of trouble, always an impossible task. She is surprised one day when she goes to Gertie’s house and finds an alligator in the bathroom, sloshing around in a tub full of water. Fortune runs for her life to escape the gator, who is definitely not happy with his current circumstances. Gertie, who has captured the gator to protect it from the unknown poacher, has spoiled the gator by feeding it cookies and casseroles.
Deputy LeBlanc is called one day when the gator sees a little boy with a bag of cookies. Then, the women have to devise a plan to get the gator back into the bayou. He’d rather stay and eat cookies.
The reader is surprised when the poacher is identified, the murder is solved, and wonders what kinds of trouble Fortune is yet to face on the pages of future books.