Campbell, author of downbeat California mysteries (In La-La Land We Trust) and, under the R. Wright Campbell byline, curious thriller-comedies (Circus Couronne, etc.), has also begun--in paperback--a mystery series featuring Jimmy Flannery of Chicago, a Runyonesque sewer inspector and Democratic Party ""precinct captain."" Here, in a slight but charming episode, he makes his hardcover debut. Temporarily demoted for tactless Party behavior, Jimmy is slogging through the sewers when he stumbles on a corpse, a 30-ish Latino male who has apparently died of. . .alligator-teeth wounds! Curious, Jimmy looks into the local alligator situation--at the zoo, at a skin tannery--and eventually links the dead man (and the killer-alligator) to a drug-smuggling scheme, one that, alas, involves someone near and dear to Jimmy himself. Meanwhile, too, in his ombudsman role, Jimmy tries to protect the neighborhood's dotty pigeon-breeders from thieves and health-department harassment. And, also meanwhile, since he's about to marry longtime girlfriend Mary Ellen, Jimmy--and his raucous father Mike--must socialize with Mary Ellen's relatives (including nosy Aunt Sada, from the Jewish side of the family). Jimmy's ungrammatical, malaproppy narration is a bit cutesily overdone, with sprinklings of dated slang. For the most part, however, this is easygoing, distinctive mystery-comedy--mixing sweet oddball characters and multi-ethnic atmosphere with nasty crimes and a dollop of political savvy.