(pb; 1977: second/side book in The Manitou series)
Fortune teller Harry Erskine is attending the funeral of his godfather, Max Greaves, at Greaves' dilapitated Cape Cod estate (Winter Sails), when he gets drawn into a new supernatural mystery.
Greaves, who collected Arabian antiques, instructed his widow, Marjorie, to burn down the mansion, because of an ancient vase that was kept in a locked, sealed turret room. It seems that this dreaded, oddly-musical vase contains "the H-bomb of djinns," the djinn who made the evil Ali Babah as powerful and legendary as he was.
Later, the lights go out, and can't be turned back on. Strange shadows dart around the huge, creepy house, as if stalking Harry, Marjorie, and the secretive Anna Modena, "exported antiquities consultant".
Joined by Professor Gordon Qualt, "America's foremost expert in ancient folklore and Middle Eastern culture," Harry and his friends begin a battle which takes on forty-plus shades of malevolence.
Less succinct than The Manitou, this Erskine-based side-novel sports a familiar, Manitou-like set-up (three different "experts" battle an über-destructive, world-rending supernatural being). And, like Manitou, it has interesting micro-twists, with characters whose motives may not be what they at first seem.
Fun, chilling follow-up to The Manitou. You don't need to read this novel if you're into The Manitou series -- it reads like a stand-alone, character spin-off work -- but if you, like me, are fascinated by Harry Erskine's everyman character, it's worth your time.
Followed by Revenge of the Manitou.