A travel-worn soldier of fortune, Harry Kincaid was no stranger to exotic ports of call. He had negotiated the drawing rooms of Edwardian London, the opium dens of Shanghai, the wild saloons of the Barbary Coast—but nothing had prepared him for the splendor and decadence of Manaus.
By 1900, the sixth richest city on Earth, Manaus glitters like a jewel set deep in the deadliest jungle known to man. Situated 1,000 miles up the Amazon, largest river on the planet, the city boasts electric lighting, trams, resplendent mansions, paved streets, prostitutes with diamonds in their teeth and an opera house that rivals La Scala - all made possible by virtue of the city's total monopoly on the world's single source of rubber. Its wildly prosperous inhabitants send their laundry and their children to Europe, while virtual slaves on plantations the size of Texas harvest the precious latex, now needed by cars with their four tires. (Five, if you count the spare...)
Posing as an orchid hunter sponsored by the Royal Botanical Society, Kincaid comes to Manaus on a steam yacht equipped with a special hothouse and a botanist disguised as his valet. The plan is precise, the stakes are high and the penalty extreme if they are caught. For to break the monopoly by smuggling rubber seeds to Malaysia is to destroy this bizarre empire. Indians, jungle and a treacherous river unlike any other stand between Kincaid and the ship waiting off the Atlantic coast. But the greatest danger is Dolores Mendonca, a beautiful heiress. Too young to know restraint, too rich to understand reality, on the eve of her betrothal Dolores has fallen in love with Harry Kincaid.