Events lead a college student to accept the possibility that he must once again face an ominous genie called the Sandman.
New Madrid, Mo., is the epicenter of a magnitude-6.8 earthquake, and Peter, his friends and family feel the tremors in Indiana. Peter sees fleeting images of the Sandman, who tormented him three years ago (Peter Jangle Uncorks the Inflation Genie, 2011). After he and his friends all leave for summer jobs, the young man believes the earthquake, unbearably hot days and a few people’s extraordinarily good fortune all point to one thing—the evil genie is back. Marske’s novel packs a lot into the pages, as Peter, his girlfriend, Sarah, and their friends, Tom, Jerry and Kathy, each enhance the narrative. The friends’ lives, all seemingly different, do ultimately converge. Peter, who works at a money management firm, suspects the Sandman may have helped a trader obtain inside information, assisted an unscrupulous employee at Sarah’s father’s bank and helped a doctor who’s developing an untested body-enhancing drug. The story goes into great detail concerning investments at both the firm and bank, and while it helps the reader understand what Peter’s doing at work, it also has the tendency to sidetrack the main plot: the Sandman’s imminent reappearance. Marske wisely keeps the genie at a distance for most of the book, deriving suspense from the uncertainty of who’s encountered the Sandman. Meanwhile, the subplots, including Peter’s jealousy of Sarah’s charming boss, and Jerry’s (who’s black) concerns about dating a white Jewish woman, take a shine all their own. While comparing Orwell’s Animal Farm with Peter’s workplace is a bit of a stretch, Peter’s boss does explicitly compare employees to animals, and the author seasons his novel with shrewd analogies: Tony, the pigheaded trader, clinches his arguments by feeding goldfish to piranha; and the Sandman, comparable to the goatlike devil, offers cash for souls.
An exceptional read; Peter Jangle could carry a third book, even without the Sandman.