In Nutty’s debut thriller, an insurrection on the Niger Delta threatens to expose an oil company’s secret history of racism and corruption.
Advanced Strategic Energy Inc. is a major oil industry player heavily invested in Nigeria. After disenfranchised tribal activists blow up a refinery, company officials fire one of their engineers—a Jamaican-American named Desmond Haynes—despite his heroic efforts to contain the disaster. Desmond suspects that his dismissal may be racially motivated, so, with the help of Doug, a British worker who also survived the explosion, he files a lawsuit against the company in a New Orleans courtroom. The story evolves into a legal and corporate drama, as the duo uncovers the reasons behind Desmond’s dismissal while ruthless company executives scheme to protect their wrongdoings from reaching the light of day. What they discover involves corporate malfeasance, a sinister French mercenary and a brutal race-motivated crime years ago in Texas. Nutty also provides plenty of knowledgeable detail about legal proceedings, corporate practices and the intricacies of the oil business. Racial discrimination and exploitation of the weak by the powerful are consistent themes. Certain sequences, particularly a well-described trip by a shady executive to pay off tribal rebels in the delta, exhibit an element of sordid realism. Much of the action, however, unfolds in a semifarcical—at times almost slapstick—fashion, complete with bawdy humor and comic characters, like a stoned Welsh paralegal and a cantankerous, lawyer-abusing judge. Although some of the comic elements succeed—the judge provides an interesting satirical take on the abuse of power—it’s sometimes hard to reconcile them with the heavier points being made, resulting in an often inconsistent tone. There are some effective plot twists toward the end, although a few strain credibility, such as the involvement of one character from the earlier Texas incident.
A diverting story told in an uneven, idiosyncratic style.