Photographer/shamus Tony Lowell might have thought twice about agreeing to look into the murder of an old friend's nephew- -Tim Cross, a young African-American transplanted from Philadelphia to an inspector's job with Florida's Department of Natural Resources--if he'd known what a bunch of tough crackers the case would bring him up against. There's brutish Florida Fertilizers foreman Dicky Cahill; his friend Buster Corcoran at Wastewater Disposal; and his hero, Virgil Doc (``Gator'') Malone, the ballplayer who's parlayed his retirement into a lucrative contract as Florida Fertilizers' spokesperson. But apart from the danger involved, and the multilayered sleaziness here (we're talking wife-beating, girlfriend-beating, miscegenation), this is exactly Tony's kind of casea no-brainer. Even though it's not clear until the last shootout who pulled the trigger on Tim after his bloodstream was loaded with toxic hydrofluorides, it's obvious from day one that Florida Fertilizers was having big-time troubles with a sinkhole contaminating a major aquifer, and somebody, everybody, didn't want Tim to give the wrong idea to his higher-ups in the govmint. Though there's not much doubt who should be locked up-- pretty much everyone in sight--it's a pleasure watching Tony (Hour of the Manatee, 1994), in his best Travis McGee mode, set the bad guys up to blow each other away first.