Splendid tongue-in-cheek adventure/melodrama in the Beat the Devil tradition. Centerpiece of the plot is the never-translated manuscript (in an extinct Arabian dialect) of Leo Africanus, a revered Moorish explorer whose conversion to Christianity is a matter of intense concern to Moslems, Christians, and Jews in Africa and may sway the faith of today's millions on the continent. Did Leo die a true Christian or was he secretly still a Moslem? And does his manuscript report on a thriving Jewish empire in mid-Africa in the sixteenth century? A hot property--but the famed manuscript has been stolen from a Nigerian museum and is being sneaked out of the country. To get it back, Mutawali Muntaka, chief judge of Kano and Senior Advisor on Islamic Law to the military government, enlists the aid (through an elaborate ruse) of his old friend Jim Stevens, a resourceful former N.Y. district attorney, now a businessman ""of no religious alliance."" And Muntaka--sly, toothless, forever serenely misattributing quotations from great Western writers--takes the resistant Stevens with him on a freakish trek through the desert into Niger toward Marrakech, the big international market for stolen art works. On the way, and fin Marrakech itself, they are constantly beset by a wonderful assortment of religiously-motivated heavies whose masterfully deceptive dialogue often seems straight from the lips of Greenstreet and Lorre. And so it goes. . . . Giddily convoluted plot, elegant chat, a leading lady who's a Catholic nun--a very special oasis in the desert of dumb Third World melodramas.