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Review by
Harry Shannon
By Matthew Delaney
St. Martin's Press, in hard cover
ISBN 0-312-27670-2

This could have been just another old-fashioned monster-on-the-loose story.
It isn't.

There is a certain 'cockiness' required of a truly interesting new author. His prose must crackle with energy and his plot tap-dance a tight rope--and if it's his first novel, he doesn't even get to have a net.

Meet a truly interesting new author.

JINN opens with a combat assault in the Solomon's during World War II. I'm a bit of a history buff, and I have to tell you Delaney really did his research. Other than a few too-obvious similarities to some actual D-Day at Normandy incidents well documented by the late Stephen Ambrose and filmed for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the author's tale of young Eric Davis and his friends just knocked me out. I was in the landing craft, ducking down under the sea spray, trying to be brave but wetting my pants.

Young Davis and his friends move into the jungle and are soon assigned to look for a missing unit. It seems more than forty men have vanished, leaving behind only a note stating that "revenge will be mine." And strange noises are coming from the bush:
Needless to say, their mission goes from bad to worse.

Giggling voices whisper nonsense at night; Japanese soldiers are found tortured to death and impaled on poles. What awaits them on this island makes combat look like pre-school. Delaney builds the suspense slowly, patiently-in fact JINN weighs in at about 450 pages with very small print. Another author would have (could have) made an entire novel out of the jungle experiences that occupy this first section. But Delaney is just setting us up. He leaves the terrifying story of Eric Davis abruptly enough to be frustrating (downright cocky of him) and just before we find out what happened!

Suddenly we find ourselves at the bottom of the ocean, with a group that is struggling to raise the Galla, a submarine lost in WW II. They work for a private party that has warned them not to even look into a certain section. Sigh. And just when that story becomes extremely compelling, Delaney shifts to Boston in the year 2008.

And now we finally arrive at the main body of the story. We meet a pair of Boston Detectives named Jefferson and Brogan who are on the trail of a new kind of serial killer who horribly mutilates his victims. The two have known one another since their service during the conflict in Bosnia. The plot leads them to a local maximum security prison and a solitary confinement cell known as "The Pit," a place even the most savage cons are afraid to be sent: because there is something down there.

At times JINN tries your patience, because Delaney expects us to have long memories and decent attention spans. But the astute reader will be rewarded for hanging in there. All of these disparate plot points come together with a satisfying BANG near the end of the tale, when we at last learn what really happened to that lost platoon in the jungle.

One other quibble, and I am generally not one who notices such things: The book had quite a few 'proofing' errors - something we'd expect from the small press but not a major publishing house. Someone dropped the ball.

Despite those minor complaints, I recommend JINN highly, and I'm delighted it received hard cover release and large printing from a company as powerful as St. Martins. And I wish Delaney all the best. Let's hope he ultimately helps to bring the genre a much-needed shot in the arm.

Believe me, the kid is that good.

4 Bookwyrms

This review copyright 2003 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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