cover image Elephant Song

Elephant Song

Wilbur Smith. Random House (NY), $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40899-4

In his latest novel of Africa, Smith ( The Diamond Hunters ) sets a fast-paced melodrama of greed and political corruption against the stunning, indisputably commanding backdrop of a rain forest. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker and African ecologist Daniel Armstrong vows revenge after a gang of poachers steals a huge cache of South African government-protected ivory, in the process brutally killing Chief Warden Johnny Nzou, Armstrong's childhood friend, and his family. Tracing the smuggling operation to its highest source, Armstrong comes up against a sadistic Chinese diplomat and his profoundly wealthy clan, an unscrupulous entrepreneur expatriate from India, a knighted British tycoon, assorted thugs and a torture-crazed leopard guarding a warehouse. Armstrong agrees to film a PR piece for a tyrant who has just taken over a small African nation and, with money supplied by Armstrong's enemies, is despoiling the rain forest and enslaving members of certain tribes. Some romance, more sex, lots of bloody fighting and international intrigues, all carried out by deftly directed larger-than-life cardboard characters, will surely please Smith's fans and other action-addicted readers. (Feb.)