"Ape House" by Sara Gruen (2010)
"When she slammed into the wall, she noted that her skull stopped moving before her brain did. When the door came to a stop against her, trapping her upright, she observed that the left side of her face - the side she'd [sic] had pressed against the door - took the brunt of the impact."
Sara Gruen also wrote Water for Elephants, which I also reviewed here, but I can't find that review now. Water for Elephants, which was later adapted into a movie, was a much better book.
And excuse me if I SPOIL it for you, but honestly I might as well. If you're actually going to read this book, I suggest exiting now.
Isabel, a linguist studying bonobos, finds herself the victim of a "terrorist" attack launched by an animal rights group. In the confusion, the bonobos she's studying are removed from her lab, and then cast as the stars of a reality show titled "Ape House." Isabel, worried over the living conditions in this "Ape House," then works towards freeing her beloved bonobos from the businessman who's exploiting them.
All of which might be plausible, if not for the big, glaring plot hole at the center of this book. I really can't believe that a show like "Ape House" would ever even enter production, I really can't believe that it would become that popular, and I really can't believe that people would care that much about bonobos in the first place. Meerkat Manor is one thing - but meerkats are cute. Bonobos? I'm sure they're noble and fascinating animals, but I can't see an entire nation getting all worked up over them, either as an object of study, or as an object of exploitation.
So yeah, this book is also fairly predictable from the get-go. Isabel saves the apes (not monkeys! NOT monkeys!), the reporter guy gets his big scoop, and by the end of the book the bonobos somehow wind up with 30 acres of prime real estate in Hawaii. Never mind the fact that bonobos aren't native to Hawaii. Never mind the fact that the reporter's "discovery" near the end was completely illegal, and would probably be inadmissible in court. Never mind....
Never mind A LOT of things. I know I'm thinking too hard for Ape House, but upon further reflection it's kind of a wasted opportunity. In the hands of a better, funnier author this book could have been a great ride. It could have also made some great points about our attitudes toward animals, and what it means to be human. As it is, it does none of those things. Even as a by-the-numbers mystery it fails, because you can figure out most of the plot from the first few chapters.
All told, it's no Water for Elephants. Not that that was such a great book, either.