Kincaid, a late-19th-century soldier of fortune who has sailed the Nile, the Yangtze, and the Mississippi, heads 1000 miles up the Amazon to Manaus--with junior partner Longford. There, under the guise of collecting rare flora, especially black orchids, for the Royal Geographic Society of London, they attempt to smuggle some rubber-plant seedlings out of Brazil. In the process, Kincaid has to choose between deflowering Dolores or Mercedes, daughters of opposed clans. When the plant-nappers are aided by an Indian with ulterior motives, the complications lead to Longford's death and to Kincaid and Dolores being stripped naked and licked by a tribe of Indians who have never seen whites before and are trying to lick the white off them. Meyer (The Seven Percent Solution) and Kaplan have a mordantly delightful time plunging the reader into a riot of description, from piranhas and poetic swamps to the incredible city of Manaus, the sixth richest place on earth: here the rival rubber barons have palatial homes and plantations that dwarf the greatest US estates, and here precocious progress has brought electric streetlamps, trolleys, an opera house, and nightlife of dazzling decadence--12-year-old Norwegian virgins a specialty, cocaine and opium commonplace, ladies with diamonds in their teeth and giant blacks to protect them. And in the end (a wistful epilogue), it is all a civilization. . . gone with the wind, or rather lost to lizards. Lavender revelry, gorgeous jungle--and very attractive escapist fare.