From Publishers Weekly
Prowling from the crime-ridden south Florida killing fields to the steamy jungles of Malaysia, Hall’s latest novel finds Thorn, the moody hero of several previous yarns (Mean High Tide, etc.), entangled in the crusades of childhood friend Allison Farleigh, founder of the Wildlife Protection League, a worldwide organization dedicated to saving exotic endangered animals. When Allison’s eldest daughter is shot dead while accompanying her mother and younger sister on the annual orangutan census in the wilds of Borneo, Thorn gets embroiled in the case, which eventually pits him against a sociopathic pair of twins engaged in the brokering of rare animals to zoological collectors-and, lurking behind them, a rich and powerful collector whose designs bring the action to Brunei for a brutally satisfying denouement. Hall’s fans may be surprised to find that Thorn plays second fiddle here to Allison, but they won’t be disappointed with this charismatically courageous woman or her adventures. With its far-flung locales and unexpected heroine, this is Hall’s most ambitious novel yet, a work of considerable moral depth distinguished by rich characterizations, live-wire prose and bolts of offbeat humor.
Previous Hall novels, especially the marvelous Hard Aground (1993), have explored Florida’s tangled, troubled history, revealing a fetid undergrowth of greed and exploitation. Those twin agents of evil are again present in this latest effort, but here the landscape is broader, extending from South Florida to the jungles of Borneo, where Allison Farleigh and her two daughters, Sean and Winslow, are helping with the annual orangutan census. Poachers interrupt their work, and Winslow is murdered, leaving Allison bent on revenge. The trail leads back to Florida and ultimately to her own family, as Allison uncovers a sweeping, multimillion-dollar scheme to profit from the killing and capture of endangered species. Also along for the chase is Thorn, the vagabond knight errant last encountered in Tropical Freeze (1989) and here playing a subordinate role as Allison’s iconoclastic sidekick. Hall integrates a minicourse on the plight of orangutans into his crime story, vividly dramatizing the animals’ human-caused travails in an effective subplot following the fate of one ape captured in Borneo and smuggled into Florida to be sold as a pet. Attempts to deliver messages on a variety of social and environmental issues have ruined many a crime novel, but Hall mixes his ingredients flawlessly, even throwing a couple of typically addled Miami psychos into the stew as the low-life poachers. Whether it’s orangutans or South Florida sleaze that draws readers in, they’re certain to leave satisfied. Bill Ott