Laced with grue and a trace of black humor, the latest by Australian d'Alpuget (Winter in Jerusalem, 1986, etc.) is set in the Australian outback and rings with alarm bells about the plight of primates (human and otherwise) and creatures in general on our rapidly deteriorating planet. On the grounds of the Exotic Feral Species and Microbiology Research Center, Diana Pembridge, avian specialist and quiet animal-rights activist, faces a dilemma: Should she immediately report her discovery of the tortured corpse of former friend Carolyn Williams to the police? Or should she first rush the huge wounded eagle—who's also shown an interest in Williams's remains- -to the vet? The vet (one of the many who will soon perish) wins. The particularly nasty murder of Williams is of special interest to the employees of the Center: Sonja, director of personnel, sister of a beleaguered politician and wife of the science chief, the elegant John Parker; Joe Miller, director of security and devoted father of a Sydney policewoman; and little Thai assistant Lek, sequestered with the lab chimps. Parker is in Bangkok at the time of the murder, reporting to the underworld heavy who supplies the illegal chimps and whose chauffeur will have a busy assassination schedule. Parker is working with a Curie-like dedication on his very own project, the fatal disease ``White Eye.'' He dreams thrilling dreams of mass wipeouts. While Pembridge, at home, tames and trains the mighty eagle (a process given in riveting detail) and sleuths, there's a shower of murders. The bad guys are exterminated, and love finds Pembridge. But later—What means this report of White Eye in faraway Canada? With eye-opening events and a collision of people, d'Alpuget achieves a hortatory effect with the calm of ashes settling after a conflagration.
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