Every paleoanthropologist in Africa, it seems, has good reason to hate Dr. Bob Shafer, and quite a few archeologists are unhappy with him too. From a time beyond memory, it seems, he’s been feuding with David Pierce, of Asalia’s national museum, and his well-connected Aunt Anthea; a few years back, he romanced and discarded rival researcher Melanie Baine, of San Felipe State; and most recently he hid the discovery of a breakthrough hominid fossil from Belgian expedition head Jan van de Haven, cheating both van de Haven and Balebe Thanatu, the graduate student who’d actually found the fossil, of the credit. Although Balebe, the son of Asalia’s influential attorney general, kept Shafer’s perfidy secret, he promptly defected to Melanie Baine’s program, setting tongues wagging throughout the field. But when Shafer disappears from the conference at which he’s scheduled to use his find to deliver the knockout blow to David Pierce’s theory of hominid evolution, those tongues move into high gear, people’s speculations laced with malicious delight. The only news that could possibly be better than Shafer gone is Shafer dead, and Durant obligingly stages the discovery of his remains in a sequence that evokes all his colleagues’ most painstaking professional skills. Apart from the paleoanthropological gossip, though, there’s little sustained human interest in researcher Durant’s debut, as shapeless subplots and fictionalized local color compete only too successfully for the attention that might have gone to the mystery of who killed Shafer.