cover image The World Beat

The World Beat

Gaylord Dold. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (283pp) ISBN 978-0-312-09945-9

Dold ( Rude Boys ) captures the mingled allure and misery of Africa in this gripping, ninth Mitch Roberts mystery. Roberts, an American PI and weapons expert living temporarily in London, is approached by an insurance underwriter at Lloyd's named Slade. Lloyd's carries the insurance for a copper-mining business based in Zaire; a doctor in its employ has been kidnapped and Slade hires Roberts to find and recover her. The journey to Africa introduces Roberts to oppressive heat, lawlessness and the everpresent danger of tropical illness. Luckily, his African contact is Adam Mbenga, who provides stalwart assistance and unswerving friendship. Dold hits a few off-notes, notably with the lack of immediacy regarding the kidnapping itself and an afterthought-like nod to Africa's AIDS crisis. But in prose that exhibits great descriptive force, the novel raises difficult moral questions of life-and-death significance, dramatically framed by the novel's harsh and unforgiving background. (Dec.)