Robert Stuart McLean
Paperback (also available in hardcover and as an e-book), 978-1-6641-3336-5, 268 pgs., $17.99
October 13, 2020
Set mainly in Houston, Libya, and the Sahara Desert, Jinn is a lively tale of adventure, love, greed, oil drilling, lost gold, and a dangerous Arab curse.
Don Featherston, a rising star at Houston-based Morrison Drilling, is the company’s youngest “tool push,” a position of prestige on an oil-drilling rig. Being a tool push is similar to being an orchestra conductor, he explains to a young woman, Liz, who will soon become the love of his life. “Most people come to an oil rig and cover their ears to the screeching noise. But to me, every noise has a meaning. I know when anything needs attention by the noise it makes. Every squeak, knock, or howl must be paid attention to.”
Just as Don’s relationship with Liz takes off, however, Morrison Drilling assigns him to head up a contingent of three drilling rigs and fifty personnel that will be transported to Libya for a two-year assignment with British Petroleum. Don is allowed to make periodic flights home but drilling for oil on rigs isolated in the desert makes it difficult to maintain a new romantic relationship.
Set in the 1980s during a time of tense relations between President Ronald Reagan and Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Jinn also zeroes in on some sharp cultural clashes between American and Libyan oil-rig workers. The story kicks into its highest gear, with dangers and death close at hand, once Don starts pursuing a lead on some stolen gold, supposedly buried in the desert during World War II by two German soldiers serving in General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps. A blind Bedouin beggar has warned Don that jinn—spirits or demons—may haunt whoever finds the treasure.
While the story is told mostly from Don’s perspective, the author does present a flashback to Rommel in North Africa and the two soldiers who took quick advantage of a combat situation to steal a gold shipment and hide it. McLean also develops another character, Rami, a thief and killer who figures prominently in the book’s tense final chapters.
Jinn is the third novel by Canadian writer Robert Stuart McLean, who took up writing after retirement. While the book contains distracting and sometimes confusing errors of punctuation, spelling, and grammar, these issues can easily be resolved in the next printing. McLean worked his way through college as an oilfield roughneck, and his experience in the oil business gives him opportunities to describe some of the ownership squabbles, greed, and diplomatic crises that can erupt, as well as the financial pressures faced by drillers. Likewise, he shows how high-dollar transactions can occur among company owners and investors at social levels seldom, if ever, seen by a lowly tool push. Meanwhile, readers who remember Houston entertainer Mickey Gilley’s Texas-themed nightclub, Gilley’s, likely will enjoy McLean’s dance scenes and how Don unexpectedly finds the woman of his dreams after a line dance.
Jinn is a high-stakes, high-adventure novel. When there’s real gold, as well as black gold, hidden nearby, somewhere in the burning sands, will anyone heed the warnings of an ancient Arab curse?
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