Snakes! A saw-scaled viper, sent in a package, kills a clerk at Noah's Ark, the Syracuse, NY, pet store run by journalist Robin Light after the death of her no-account husband, Murphy, who was always trying to get rich the easy way until he died of a cocaine overdose. When the police find $50,000 hidden in the store, Robin discovers that Murphy and the clerks had been trafficking in illegal snakes and a few other goodies, such as a severed head, shipped, it seems, for use in a Caribbean witchcraft ritual. On top of all this, the police, led by surly detective Donnella Lorenzo, think that Robin is the killer. Supported by breakfasts of coffee, chocolate bars, and handfuls of vitamins; warmed by Camels and increasing quantities of booze; and bailed out occasionally by Murphy's old friend George Samson, a 6' 4'', 300-lb., ``blue black'' police detective, Robin searches for the murderer. Like a Kinsey Millhone wannabe, Robin travels through the cold underbelly of Syracuse in her own idiosyncratic car: a made-over Checker cab, the set of wheels that reminds her of her New York City home and the vehicle that Block's publishers hope will carry Robin through a thriving detective series. An interesting debut, but grisly and not for the serpent-shy. Robin has a slithering encounter with a king cobra and feeds crickets to reptiles. A modern-day Eve, she can look a snake in its cold eye; it's the large spiders she can't stand.