Jeanne Meeks – Gator Bait

This week, I’m welcoming back mystery author, Jeanne Meeks.


Jeanne Meeks describes herself as a outdoors woman,  a late bloomer, and a cheerleader for women who try.  In 2007 she dared herself to backpack across the Grand Canyon. There she was inspired by a tragedy in the canyon to write her first novel, Rim to Rim, which was nominated at a Chicago mystery writers convention for Best First Novel in 2014. Wolf Pack, the second in the Backcountry Mystery series, soon followed.

Jeanne winters in Florida where days are filled with tennis, golf, and parties. Her tennis teams supported her first two books, but teased her until she agreed to write a story around them. Gator Bait was born.

Jeanne comes from a family of ten, has two sons, loves wildflowers, kayaking, camping, golf, reading, and gardening, and occasionally has fits of baking. She adores her five grandchildren and loves to teach them outdoor skills.

After twenty-eight years in business, Ms. Meeks and her husband, Bob, sold their security surveillance company, so she now writes full time and lives in Illinois and Florida.

Gator Bait – A Tennis Team Mystery

( fiction/ light mystery/ female amateur sleuth)

Can the Paradise Palms tennis team save their favorite alligator after he drags the body of a flashy real estate developer to the bottom of his pond?

A volunteer at the nature preserve spots a body bobbing in the pond at the same time as Big Joe sees his next meal. Convinced of the gator’s innocence, Packi Walsh rallies her new tennis team, the fourth-grade science class, and the local motorcycle gang to campaign to save Big Joe’s hide.

Packi’s snooping uncovers real estate fraud and irate investors, an affair between a trophy wife and her tennis pro, and a connection between the friendly neighborhood pharmacist and the New Jersey mob.

Now someone is trying to silence Packi by making her gator bait.

An excerpt from Gator Bait – A Tennis Team Mystery

The door slammed harder than Deputy Teig intended, but he loathed leaving the cool air of the cruiser just because some busybody old lady reported that a damn fool jumped in a pond. Probably a college student on spring break, still drunk from last night.

He stopped in the preserve’s sandy parking lot to straighten his hat and assume a public-friendly face. Visitors in goofy hats and Hawaiian shirts milled around the entrance pavilion, desperate to entertain grandchildren with a volunteer-led tour of the slough. He marched past with a nod.

“God, I hate this humidity,” he said under his breath. And the old snowbirds that flock here and ruin our state, create traffic nightmares, and have heart attacks.

What do those people come to the slough for anyway? Bunch of trees, couple of birds. You go into the swamp to hunt pigs, that’s what. His stomach growled and he smacked his lips, thinking of last year’s barbecue. He walked right into a spiderweb. “Damn it!” He waved his arms to destroy the web, pulled sticky strands from his chin, and spat to remove one from his lip. Ugh.

Teig regarded the jungle of cypress and shook his head at the dispatcher’s incompetence. Tanya should’ve said which pond. He dreaded choosing the wrong direction and walking the entire two-mile loop. A posted map showed four ponds, so he chose the clockwise route toward the largest pond and trudged into the stinking swamp.

Within ten minutes, his shirt clung to his chest. Sweat stained the armpits. He regretted leaving his ice water in the cruiser, and the slow flow of water beneath the boardwalk made his tongue seem drier and thicker.

As he stomped along, he became aware that fat quivered beneath the skin of his belly. I gotta get in shape. He remembered flat abs during his academy days. What? Twelve years ago. The wooden walkway shook beneath him, and he vowed to lose weight. No excuses.

Otter Pond and Duckweed Pond were deserted. He called out, but got no answer. Irritated, he plodded on, deeper into the swamp. He needed a breather, leaned against the railing, and bent to tighten a shoe lace. That was a mistake. He grunted and wheezed as he grasped a post to haul himself up and almost missed a faint sound.

A kitten? The memory of his mother bent over his injured cat flashed through his mind.

The mewling came from further along the boardwalk, but faded. Teig quickened his steps. He studied the brackish water and peered through tangled vines and cabbage palms until a woman appeared. Caucasian, five-two, fifty, thin. She had short blonde hair and wore pink beneath one of those stupid volunteer vests.

“Officer! Officer!” She waved, hopping and jumping as if he was a rock star. He raised his hand above his head in greeting.

“Thank goodness, you’re here.” She sounded shrill, on edge, not at all like a kitten. She pointed up a narrow boardwalk branching away from the main route. “He was over there, in the middle of the pond.”

A hint of crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes and a softness to her skin put her nearer to sixty than fifty. Probably a great looking woman in her time.

She grabbed his arm and tried to drag him toward the pier.

“Hold on there, ma’am.” He patted the little lady’s hand, still on his arm, and stood his ground. She needs to calm herself. “I’m Deputy Billy Teig. Tell me your name.”

She closed her eyes and lowered her voice an octave. “Nice to meet you. I’m Patricia Walsh. Friends call me Packi.”

“Okay, Mizz Walsh, what happened?”

“My phone fell into the water, and I couldn’t tell the dispatcher.” Her hands flitted like nervous sparrows.

“What’s the emergency, Mizz Walsh?”

“I’m sorry.” She took a long breath and blew air from her cheeks. “I saw a man in the water––through my binoculars.” She held up the oversized lenses suspended from her neck. Her brows scrunched together.


She jerked her head a quick no. “Dead, I think.”

Hot adrenaline rushed to the surface of his skin. “Show me where.” He hurried in the direction she pointed.

On the viewing deck, the deputy shaded his eyes from the blinding sun and scanned the surface of the large pond. Nothing but the usual birds. “Where is he?”

She spread her arms open over the water in a helpless gesture. “He’s gone.”

“Mizz Walsh, if he was dead, how could he be gone? Are you sure it was a body?”

The woman’s lip quivered. Trying not to cry, he suspected. She ran her hands through her hair, dislodging her hat.

“Big Joe took him,” she whispered.

“You mean the gator?” Deputy Teig’s hand went to his gun.

My Review:

This first novel in the Paradise Palms Tennis Team series sets the tone for more wonderful stories to come. Packi is an enjoyable character to read. She has the same problems and insecurities as many women do at her age, so she’s not perfect. And her teammates are much the same. The setting is so well-described, you can picture Big Joe, the alligator, swimming in the pond at the nature preserve with only his eyes and snout above the water line. Kind of ominous. And just when you think the suspense is over, it starts again. This story kept me turning pages well into the night. An excellent first novel in the new series. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.

gator official cover

Website / blog:

Links to  Amazon / Kindle :   

Gator Bait  –  

Rim To Rim –  

Wolf Pack –

Jeanne and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.

About Evelyn Cullet

I write mystery romance and romantic suspense novels. I'm an avid organic gardener, and I play the piano. I have a spoiled Black Lab mix., Bailey, whom I adore. Visit my blog every Monday to discover new authors and their novels at:
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2 Responses to Jeanne Meeks – Gator Bait

  1. Jeanne Meeks says:

    My pleasure, Evelyn. I love reading about all the other authors on your blog. Well done.

  2. Thanks for being a guest author on my blog this week, Jeanne. I’m enjoying reading your novel, Gator Bait. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

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