by Stephen Leather
Reviewed by Nu Yang
“You're going to hell, Jack Nightingale.”
From there, the reader begins the story of police negotiator turned private investigator Jack Nightingale. Author Stephen Leather is already an accomplished UK thriller writer, but his Jack Nightingale series makes it US debut this spring with Nightfall.
I'm a big fan of supernatural noir (Jim Butcher, Charlie Huston, etc.), so I was interested in reading Nightfall for New Myths. I do admit I've been kind of wary of new urban fantasy books because the genre is so popular these days. What was Leather going to bring to the table that would make it stand out among the many other titles and authors? Well, he proved to me that he did have something new and refreshing to bring to the genre.
Warning, there are book spoilers.
I was pulled in immediately from chapter one when Jack is called to a scene to prevent a jumper from leaping off a balcony. The jumper is a nine-year-old girl. What a great hook. Leather puts his protagonist in a tense situation and as a reader, I appreciated that we got some character insight right away. We find out how Jack works in his profession and how he tries to stop the girl from jumping to her death. Unfortunately, the girl does jump, and the book leaps forward (no pun intended) two years later to show that Jack is now a private investigator.
Over the course of the story, Jack finds out his biological father has killed himself and he inherits a mansion with a priceless library filled with books on Satanism. It shocks him because he didn't even know he was adopted. It starts him on a journey to find out who he is. It also leads him to find out his father had sold his own son's soul to a devil, who will come to collect in a few weeks on Jack's thirty-third birthday.
Even though Jack dismisses the claim, it soon becomes apparent something dark is at work. People around him start dying gruesome deaths. At times, it was frustrating because just as Jack is going to find answers, Leather kills off the source. I understand it makes it more difficult for Jack, but as a reader, I also wanted to see the story move forward.
As the story progresses, Jack also finds his biological mother, who is committed in a mental institution. He also learns he has a sister, who also had her soul sold by their father. When I was reading, I began to suspect that maybe Jack was the killer (maybe in a possessed state, where he wasn't aware of his actions). I was wrong, but I was pleased to see Jack address this same concern in the book.
The story's climax is great because it brings into play Jack's skills as a negotiator as he frees himself from the devil's pact on his soul. I won't give too much away, but the story's ending leads perfectly to the second book in the series (I believe it will be a trilogy) with Jack's search for her sister.
I enjoyed the book overall because Jack was an interesting main character. I liked how he interacted with people especially his receptionist/possible love interest, Jenny. I want to see how their relationship progresses in the future.
Although I would categorize the book as a supernatural thriller, it didn't fall into the familiar traps of the genre. When other books may rely on vampires and zombies, Leather used Satanism as his dark force. It's something that could actually happen in today's world. I also enjoyed this line from the book: “There is no black magic or white magic. There's just magic....it's like electricity...you can use it to power a life-support machine or an electric chair.” It pretty sums up the moral of the story.
One minor thing: “You're going to hell, Jack Nightingale” is a great tagline, but after hearing people repeat it to him over and over, it started to lose its effect and creepiness.
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