Josh Pryor, Author . Carroll & Graf $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1173-4

Ambitious and intermittently funny, this debut satire sends up both detective and sci-fi genres with its story of simian mayhem. Dutch Flowers is a sad sack investigator charged with solving a murder at the Acteon Corporation, a Los Angeles biotech firm. Acteon breeds and studies genetically enhanced chimpanzees. One of its subjects, 99, has apparently been murdered by a fellow ape, and Dutch's job is to figure out which of the other chimps is the perp. Dutch himself is a former CIA assassin whose mission went spectacularly—and famously—wrong during the Gulf War. Now Dutch is being hounded by an Iraqi extortionist, which is why he decides to accept the assignment. Pryor's premise is a winner, spawning some hilarious deadpan observations ("I managed to establish the whereabouts of 35 chimps during the time period in which 99's murder had taken place") as well as inspired sequences, including a flashback in which Dutch and fellow CIA assassins interrupt a cohort of Saddam's prostitutes on their way to work, only to find that the women are more resourceful than the U.S.'s best black ops. But for every lean, hard-bitten comment, there's a counterpart bloated by too much exposition or studied hipness ("The bungled bid for the life of the dictator the American motorist loved to hate would make the fall of Saigon look like the wrap party for a B-movie"). One can only hope for more consistent work from the talented Pryor in the future. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/10/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!