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Book Review

Book Cover

The Djinn


Author: Graham Masterton
Telos Publishing
RRP: £9.99, US $19.99, Cdn $19.99
ISBN: 978 1 84583 052 6
Available 30 September 2010

Harry Erskine attends his godfather's funeral at a gothic-style old house near the seafront. Here he meets a mysterious and beautiful woman who seems as interested as him as to the circumstances surrounding Max's death. His Godmother, Marjorie, is determined to have the house burnt to the ground, as per her late husband's instructions. It seems Max was an avid collector of ancient Persian artefacts, and that one particular piece drove him to cut off his own face. The pot that Harry vaguely recalls from childhood visits has been heavily sealed within a turret of the house, and adorned with ancient spells and mystic symbols. Was Max insane, or simply being extremely careful? He had been convinced that the vessel was that which Ali Baba had held contained the forty thieves - a powerful djinn which could unleash forty representations of gruesome death. Harry and the woman Anna must determine whether the danger is real - particularly as someone in their midst has selfish and ultimately catastrophic ambitions...

This is a reprint of a book first published back in 1977 by Star. It was only Masterton's second horror fiction release, following his debut bestseller, The Manitou. The key protagonist from that book was retained here; Harry Erskine is a charlatan clairvoyant, a sort of lovable rogue who obtains money from vulnerable but rich old ladies, who are quite happy to be complimented and informed of impending good fortune. This was significant in The Manitou, because Harry is very sceptical of the supernatural world, but his natural order is turned on its head by bizarre events. As far as The Djinn is concerned, it doesn't need to be Harry, as there is no direct connection to his unscrupulous trade, and he should be less dismissive of events beyond the natural order.

Graham Masterton has always possessed a smooth, flowing narrative which makes for comfortable reading. He often utilises metaphors to prevent the need for long descriptive passages. So his stories inevitably rattle along at a cracking pace. A particular skill he incorporates in abundance is the knack of selecting a nasty myth or legend from anywhere in the world and setting it very convincingly into a contemporary setting. His earlier books, like this one, settle on a central theme that doesn't allow itself to be diverted by pointless story threads. Consequentially, now we are a decade into the twenty first century, some people may consider it to be restrictive in terms of action and events. This could be referred to as gentlemanly horror, with a professor, an old-school doctor, and plans of strategy conducted in a posh restaurant. This scenario would certainly work well as part of a TV anthology series.

This new edition of The Djinn is published by Telos, whose pages are always of good quality, although the thin cover makes it prone to bending slightly out of shape unless you are very careful. The book contains an exclusive introduction from the author, describing the origin of the story and Middle-East Djinn legends.

Having appreciatively experienced every book in his extensive horror arsenal over the years, I was pleased at the prospect of revisiting a book I still possess but haven't read since its original publication. I can honestly report that I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and it immediately started me considering re-reading some others from his early years. Perhaps Telos will be able reprint more. Charnel House anyone? Or The Wells of Hell? What about The Devils of D-Day? Or perhaps...


Ty Power

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