Wacky globe-trotting mano a mano series debut of Jake Hipp, former American sociobiology professor turned oddball international antiterrorist agent. When a failure of nerve stops Hipp from killing psychopathic mass-murderer Bobby Pearl at a Tangier tourist-trap cafÇ, he hands a waiter a hundred-dollar bill, asks for the best hashish that money can buy, and proceeds to smoke his way out of despair. After Pearl’s bizarre henchmen—a Scripture-quoting motormouth and a thug who compulsively imitates elephant shrieks—engulf a San Francisco ethnic food festival in mustard gas, Pearl, who avoids recognition by wearing fake skin, becomes an international media celebrity, and Esquire prints a characteristically snide article on the CIA’s supersecret “mongoose” section (mongooses are the natural enemies of snakes, the CIA’s code name for terrorists). Hipp, who also owns an expatriate bar on a Filipino island, is fired, but he swears to bring Pearl down. Author van Pelt, himself once a part of the American intelligence community, dramatizes the skewed duel between Hipp and Pearl, both of whom consume copious quantities of marijuana and imported beer as part of a vast Darwinian struggle (in which celebrity, both in the entertainment media and on the Internet, comes to replace the traditional masculine evolutionary rewards of sex and herd domination). That Hipp eventually gets his man is almost trivial: van Pelt’s silly, irritating, uproarious saga is an unabashed Pynchon homage, replete with phony pop-song lyrics, weirdly named characters, hyperbolic dialogue, surrealistic interludes, and meandering, pseudo-scientific asides about reptilian brain stems. A treat for Pynchon fans, though perhaps less likely to please those who favor more conventional thrillers.