Mission Impossible type caper from one of Britain’s best crime writers. A man hires a small group of crooks to heist an invaluable Borgia ring from a private museum owned by a reclusive millionaire in the South African jungle.
Armo Shalik made his fortune in industrial espionage, recovering stolen art for the original thief and anything else underhanded, The original owner of a valuable Borgia ring had it stolen from him and he hires Shalik to get it back. The man who has it is a crippled recluse who lives in a fortress in the South African jungle. He’s Max Kahlenberg. His compound contains an underground museum filled with stolen art treasures from around the world. He has an army of Zulu warriors guarding the fortress. He’s also protected by his pet cheetah Hindenberg.
Shalik hires safe cracker Lew Fennel and helicopter pilot Garry Edwards to go to Natal, South Africa and get the ring. Fennel is on the run from a mobster and Edwards has just finished three years in jail on a smuggling rap. Going with them will be model Gaye Desmond who works for Shalik as a honey trap and Ken Jones who is an African guide. They’ll each get nine thousand dollars for the assignment.
None of them know that Shalik’s secretary is taping everything for a crooked banker. He hires a petty thief to seduce the girl into getting him the information which he passes along to Kahlenberg. When she finds out she’s been used she commits suicide. Shalik doesn’t have a clue as to what went on until his police friend finds a microphone disguised as a paper clip.
In Africa Ken gets them a Bantu guide to lead them through the harrowing jungle. Garry and Gaye fly into the fortress. She’s posing as a photographer for a magazine. She tells Kahlenberg they spotted his compound from the air and she wants to photograph the animals. Meanwhile Ken and Fennel are waiting nearby for a signal from Garry to sneak in so they can go to the museum and steal the ring. Kahlenberg has other plans.
I couldn’t put this one down and even put off getting some things done so I could finish it. It’s not the usual Chase crime novel thanks to its setting and adventure storyline but it is very readable and defines the term escapist.