NYPD detective Lieutenant Charlie Bannerman ignores specific orders to treat the recent spate of druggie deaths as accidental overdoses and enlists the aid of Columbia biology professor Gary Carswell to go over some DNA samples taken from the bodies. When his big Cray mainframe suggests the mysterious presence of a rare species of orchid, Carswell contacts Dr Sam Bloom, former Navy pilot in Viet Nam and now a leading expert on exotic Orchidaceae. Their combined research soon reveals the orchid to be native to the Island of Madagascar.
Police Commissioner Hennessey has just learned of possible Interpol complicity involving the movement of cocaine from Bolivia to Europe via Madagascar, then on to the U.S. The DEA has been monitoring one particular vessel, the Lucinda V, which just might fit this pattern. Hennessey calls Bannerman and other senior officials into his office to discuss what action the NYPD might take under the circumstances. The outcome is that Bannerman, together with Sam Bloom, will travel to Madagascar’s main port, Toamsina, to meet the Lucinda V when she docks in three day’s time.
After Swiss physician Dr Anna Grenier learns of the accidental death of her husband in Madagascar’s Tsingy Nature Reserve, she decides to conduct her own investigation into Lind’s death. In Madagascar’s capital, Tana, she runs into Sam and Charlie under dire circumstances, after which the three discover they have something in common and decide to join forces.
The prestigious Zurich International Association of Naturalists (ZIAN) is run by Dietrich Brower, who answers to a board of directors comprised of eight former generals in the German Wehrmacht These men are wealthy beyond reason, thanks to ZIAN’s secondary source of income—the heroin trade. But recent activity by the Columbia drug lords has put this lucrative enterprise at risk, and dramatic steps must now to be taken to protect their interests. Brower has just learned of disturbing events in Madagascar that prompts him to contact his friends at Interpol Paris to enlist the aid of agent René Simard, Anna Grenier’s cousin. Simard is instructed to travel to Madagascar and liaise with the covert ZIAN team working in Tsingy. His orders are to get rid of the three interlopers before their nosing around causes problems.
In Toamsina, part-time CIA helper Giles Lamont arranges forthe two Americans to inspect the cargo intended for the Lucinda V, where they soon uncover evidence confirming ZIAN’s involvement in the movement of cocaine. The following morning, upon exiting the storage shed, their rental car is blown up and Lamont’s son killed. Later that evening, Sam and Charlie are set upon by two professional assassins and barely escape with their lives.
Anna is puzzled but delighted when her French cousin shows up at the Swiss forestry camp where her husband worked, but when Bloom and Bannerman arrive the following day, they quickly grow suspicious about Simard’s intentions. Meanwhile, Bloom falls in love with Anna Grenier and even confirmed bachelor Charlie Bannerman receives an offer he can’t refuse. The outcome of Bannerman’s status report to Commissioner Hennessey sees Charlie and Sam heading off to Zurich, where Bloom, himself a long-time member of ZIAN, pays a surprise visit to Dietrich Brower. As directed, they interact with the local police to begin looking into the probability of ZIAN’s shipping this deadly cocaine to the U.S. But what they discover on Christmas Eve while searching the basement of the old opera house used by ZIAN is not cocaine, but something that shocks the hell out of the two Americans.
The following day, as pieces of the puzzle fall into place, Sam and Charlie head back to the island where Giles Lamont has arranged for several of his old mercenary buddies to help penetrate the world’s most forbidding piece of real estate. Here, a final terrifying twist of fate not only puts everyone at risk, but reveals the true evil that lurks deep in the heart of Tsingy’s deadly limestone labyrinth.