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ESAU by Philip Kerr

ESAU

By Philip Kerr

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8050-5175-9
Publisher: Henry Holt

 An electrifying discovery in the high Himalayas sends a group of scientists--complete with the requisite bad apple-- scurrying for traces of the missing link between ape and man. Nonpareil mountaineer Jack Furness returns from an illegal and abortive climb of the forbidden mountain of Machhapuchhare without his friend Didier Lauren, killed in an avalanche, but with a consolation prize: a hominid skull like no other. In fact, as his lover, Berkeley biologist Stella Swift, gradually realizes, it seems to belong to a hitherto undiscovered species- -and, according to the most advanced carbon-dating techniques, it's either been miraculously preserved in a glacier, or it's no fossil, but the skull of a creature only recently dead. Their imaginations fired by earlier climbers' tales of the fabled yeti, Jack and Swift work feverishly to put together funding for a return expedition, though they can't tell anyone their destination. Their application to the National Geographic Society is turned down, but then reversed by a last-minute financial intervention, supposedly by a new sponsor but actually by Uncle Sam. The CIA, which has its own strategic interest in the region, needs to insert an agent into Nepal without disturbing the fragile current truce between India and Pakistan--and without telling Jack and Swift. Not even the CIA knows until too late that their agent, code-named CASTORP, is a loose cannon willing to sacrifice anybody for the sake of a secret mission. So as Jack and Swift, together with their crew of scientists and Sherpas, head upcountry to the treacherous Machhapuchhare and the yeti's footprints, CASTORP prepares to execute his mission, and anyone who gets in its way. Kerr, whose last thriller (The Grid, 1995) recalled Michael Crichton at his slickest, far outstrips his model in this mix of Himalaya derring-do with a breathtakingly well-informed command of mountain-climbing hardware, primate biology, and philosophical speculations on the riddles of evolution. (First printing of 200,000; film rights to Touchstone; $200,000 ad/promo)