Stephen Leather ‘Nightfall’ Review
Written by: William Massa
“You’re going to hell, Jack Nightingale.” – Nightfall
Nightingale is a former police negotiator turned struggling private eye. As our story opens, Jack is hit with some life-changing news: he was adopted and his real father just committed suicide. Jack now finds himself heir to a giant decaying manor that holds one of the largest occult libraries in the world. As an extra bonus, it also contains a final message from his deceased father in which he explains that he sold Jack’s soul to the devil at birth and that the forces of darkness are coming to collect on his thirty-third birthday. Thanks a bunch, dad!
Making matters even worse – said birthday is only a few days away! What starts off as a sick joke takes on a darker connotation when the people around Jack start dropping off like flies and random strangers point out that Jack is bound for warmer pastures. Once the terrible truth sinks in, Jack realizes that time is running out and a nail-biting race against the clock is set into motion.
Stephen Leather is one of the UK’s most successful thriller authors, and he writes across genre – he counts crime, spy and horror fiction as part of his extensive body of work. His range is clearly on display in Nightfall. Leather has a facility with the crime genre and the occult touches pop because they are seamlessly woven into a hard-boiled mystery. The book makes for a propulsive read, managing to be both suspenseful and a whole lot of fun.
More importantly, Nightingale is a classic hard-boiled PI who gets under the reader’s skin. We like this guy and even when the story gets a bit repetitive toward the middle, Nightingale’s maverick charm keeps us engaged. The novel really picks up steam in the final section and successfully builds to a rousing finish – we want to know whether our hero can outwit the devil and escape eternal damnation.
Nightfall doesn’t break new ground, isn’t terribly frightening or disturbingly graphic. It has an urban fantasy flavor (think of a toned down version of John Constantine with less hardcore violence and scares) but is highly engaging and offers some intriguing glimpses into occult ritual. The freshest part in terms of horror is the subculture of occult book collectors that the novel explores – millionaires who made deals with dark forces and now spend their dying days biding their time inside protective pentangles, hoping to renege on the pacts they made in their foolish youth.
Nightfall is the first book in a series (there are three more volumes available, Midnight, Nightmare and Nightshade with Last Light, the fifth volume, scheduled for early next year). If your taste runs toward more hardcore fare, Nightfall may be a tad too tame. For my part, I enjoyed the book immensely and went ahead and ordered the rest of the series – can’t wait to see what spooky troublemakers Nightingale encounters next!
Pick it up right here!
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