04/17/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
by James W. Hall
Gone Wild is an exotic departure for thriller-writer Hall, who leaves the asphalt jungles of South Florida for the real thing in Borneo. Hall's hero is animal activist Allison Farleigh, who has brought her two grown daughters to Indonesia to take part in the annual orangutan census. But the anticipated idyll turns into a nightmare when Winslow, Allison's oldest, is killed by poachers. Then Allison learns the bullet was meant for her.
Gone Wild follows Allison's furious efforts to find her daughter's killers. We are plunged into a world where endangered species are brutally and illegally harvested and sold for big bucks to fat-cat collectors. We also meet two of the more engaging psychopaths in recent crime fiction—Orlon and Rayon White. (Orlon, who is "smooth as an ice cube," shaves his body, even plucks his brows and lashes, so "every tickle of air" gives him a rush.)
The ending of Gone Wild is not up to Hall's usual standard. But you don't read Hall for his endings—you read him for the prose that gets you there. Take the passage in which Allison hides in a cave already claimed by a python: "The snake was surprisingly gentle, felt like warm water rising around her. For an instant everything became exquisitely vivid. The smell of the damp cave, the velvety embrace of the snake, the rasp of its body against her flesh, her slow breath entering and leaving her body...." Exquisitely vivid, indeed. (Delacorte, $21.95)