Born in Washington, DC.
Former actress in off-Broadway productions, repertory theaters, commercials, and soap operas, including a recurring role on One Life to Live; investigative journalist focused on wildlife law enforcement, endangered species issues, and the environment. Former photo editor at a New York, NY, photography stock house.
Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Outdoor Writers of America, Society of Environmental Journalists.
"rachel porter" mystery series
Gator Aide, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
Tortoise Soup, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.
Bird Brained, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
Border Prey, Avon (New York, NY), 2000.
Black Delta Night, Avon (New York, NY), 2001.
A Killing Season, Avon (New York, NY), 2002.
Coastal Disturbance, Avon (New York, NY), 2003.
Blue Twilight, Avon (New York, NY), 2004.
Restless Waters, Avon (New York, NY), 2005.
Unsafe Harbor, Avon (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to The Animal Dealers, Animal Welfare Institute, 1997; contributor of articles to various periodicals, including New York Times Sunday Magazine, Omni, Travel & Leisure, Audubon, National Wildlife, Mother Jones, and Wildlife Conservation. Contributing editor, Animals magazine.
Jessica Speart's Rachel Porter mystery series features a former aspiring actress who abandons her native New York lifestyle in favor of becoming a federal wildlife agent. In Gator Aide, the first novel in the series, Porter finds herself in the Louisiana swamp, but instead of tracking down big-time game hunters, her chauvinistic boss puts her on "duck duty," scanning the swamp for illegal duck hunters. The dull task is promptly dismissed when an alligator with a bullet in its head turns up in the New Orleans' Latin Quarter apartment of a murdered prostitute. In investigating the crime, Porter encounters mobsters, crooked politicians, and neo-Nazis. Noting the book's rather adult themes, Paula Abend, writing in Animals, called it "a witty, well-paced story for us adults." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly warned readers that the book is not a "whodunit," but praised Speart's writing, calling it "palpably atmospheric."
Porter's second novel, Tortoise Soup, finds the wildlife agent investigating the theft of 350 endangered baby tortoises from a federally protected area in Nevada. Even though the locals do not have much affection for the tortoises, since their presence has prevented development in the area, Porter does not know who would want to harm them, unless someone is interested in selling them to Asian grocers as a delicacy. Soon enough it becomes apparent not only tortoises are in danger. Porter finds local recluse Annie McCarthy shot dead, along with her dog, and refuses to accept suicide as an explanation. However, her investigation gets off to a rocky start; the locals dislike her as much as they disliked the baby tortoises. Writing in the Antigonish Review, Mark Pulham praised the author: "Speart knows what she writes about…. This knowledge gives the book an unmistakable ring of truth." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly did not find Rachel's loner persona convincing and noted several "credibility gaps" in the plot, but nevertheless concluded that the book contains many "appealingly eccentric characters."
Numerous Rachel Porter novels have followed, including Restless Waters, in which Rachel is transferred to Hawaii. She uncovers an animal export business and attempts to raid a lucrative and illegal "shark-finning" scheme, which soon places her in danger. Writing in Booklist, Emily Melton praised Speart's "sassy heroine" and "fresh, irreverent writing."
Jessica Speart once told CA: "My primary motivation for writing is to convey my passion for wildlife and the environment—especially concerning the plight of endangered species. We are on the brink of a new Dark Ages, one in which species and plants are beginning to disappear at an increasingly alarming rate. The illegal trade in wildlife is estimated at five billion dollars a year, placing it right behind the ranks of drug smuggling and gun running, and often involving many of the same people. It is due to this fact that my heroine, U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent Rachel Porter, always stumbles upon deeper and darker misdeeds than she originally suspects.
"I spent a number of years writing magazine articles on different cases involving special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was this work which opened my eyes to the battle taking place to protect native species within our own country. Our wildlife is considered an extremely valuable commodity by much of the rest of the world and is being poached to the point where it is a dwindling resource. U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents compose the thin green line who are battling to save it. These are the people who inspire and influence my work.
"My writing process can be broken down into two definite parts. Half of the year is spent doing research. The other six months are spent writing the book, itself."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Animals, September-October, 1997, Paula Abend, review of Gator Aide, p. 42.
Antigonish Review, March 14, 1998, Mark Pulham, review of Tortoise Soup.
Booklist, July, 2005, Emily Melton, review of Restless Waters, p. 1906.
Publishers Weekly, July 21, 1997, review of Gator Aide, p. 198; April 13, 1998, review of Tortoise Soup, p. 72.
Jessica Speart Web site,http://www.jessicaspeart.com (May 9, 2006).
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (May 9, 2006), Cathy Sova, review of Tortoise Soup.