When idealistic herpetologist Ava Rush disappears on a snake-farm in Amazonia (she's been experimenting with snake-venom cures), her brother Michael--a one-time radical turned Wall Street yuppie--goes to the remote village of Puerto Porqueno in search of his much-beloved sister. What happened to Ava? Well, as the reader knows from the start and Michael soon learns, she's been killed by the henchmen of cocaine tycoon Karl Buchreiser--a kinky, neo-Nazi cartoon villain who's determined to keep his billion-dollar operation (coke smuggled inside live snakes) safe from prying do-gooders like Ava. Once he learns the truth, Michael vows to kill Buchreiser--a plan that gets only ambivalent support from Michael's two new allies: leprosy-mutilated taxi driver Quito; and former Olympic gymnast Nicole, Ava's friend/colleague, who becomes Michael's sexy new True Love with predictable promptness. (It's barely a hop, skip, and jump from first meeting--""He had the impression that Nicole could probe into his most secret self""--to consummation and beyond, when Nicole feels ""their closeness at the core of her being."") Still, despite a tarantula bite and other setbacks, Michael does manage to stage an assault on Buchreiser's castle, where Nicole has been taken hostage. And, in the hectic finale, Buchreiser gets everything he deserves--thanks partly to Michael, but mostly to the fury of the local Indians whom Buchreiser (""the white jaguar"") has been exploiting in his cocaine biz. Appel's prose throughout is rudimentary at best, often pulpy, with burbles of B-movie dialogue. (""You're the most incredible woman. . .but damn it, I've got something important to do!"") The clash of values between the Ava/Nicole idealism and Michael's yuppiedom, though much belabored, is never convincing; nor is Nicole's clichÃ‰d romanticization of the noble/pure Indians and their wondrous, endangered culture. (""Unlike us, they're aware that their being is only a mere particle of the universe. They don't seek meaning. They just are."") But there's some vividness in the evocation of the dank Amazon milieu--diseases, insects, sweat--and in the assorted atrocities (often involving snakes) committed by the loathsome Buchreiser lieutenants. In sum: formula action-melodrama, thin and simple, not especially skillful, but reasonably lively and occasionally atmospheric.