Monkeys in A Jungle

BRAZZAVILLE BEACH by William Boyd; Morrow; 316 pages; $21

For starters, take a charismatic scientist in west Africa, someone whose fictional career parallels Jane Goodall's or Dian Fossey's. Eugene Mallabar began by making scrupulous and original studies of chimpanzees during the 1950s and became a celebrity when his first best seller, The Peaceful Primate, was published. Documentaries, TV shows, citations and honorary degrees -- even a national park -- all followed, and Mallabar grew rich.

In his reckless, boundingly readable fifth novel, British writer William Boyd picks up the story at the point where Mallabar, in glamorous, leonine middle age, has...

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