Leather is a prolific writer, with over 20 books on the shelves, and many
translated into other languages. Historically, most of his books have been
of the ‘thriller’ genre, with many featuring Dan (Spider) Shepherd and all
of them damn good yarns. However, Leather is a writer of fiction and can
turn his hand to many different styles within the discipline. One very
notable diversion was the book Private Dancer, a seminal work on the
trials and pitfalls of cross-cultural relationships, with bar girls in
particular. Some pundits were horrified that he had ‘descended’ to that
subject, but popular opinion changed all that. It has become the ‘must read’
manual for all first time visitors to Thailand.
That rather long-winded introduction to his new book
Nightfall (ISBN 978-1-444-7065-7, Hodder and Stoughton, 2010, B. 385 in
Bookazine) results from the fact that Stephen Leather has done another volte-face
and has delved into the supernatural with this new book, with an action hero
named Jack Nightingale, as opposed to his Dan (Spider) Shepherd.
You are introduced to Jack Nightingale as a member of an
elite New Scotland Yard negotiating team, who is sent out to talk to a very
troubled nine year old girl who looks as if she is contemplating suicide.
Unfortunately, Jack Nightingale fails the mission and then follows this up
with confronting the little girl’s pedophile father which sees his being
asked to leave the police force immediately.
Two years later, and Jack Nightingale has joined the
ranks of penniless Private Investigators with an office above a hairdresser.
I am always hopeful that one day a writer will have a rich and successful PI
as the hero, but perhaps these people do not exist in real life.
Jack is assailed by disasters everywhere, he finds he was
adopted and discovers his biological parents, with his father a devil-worshipper,
his “uncle” and “aunt” dying under strange circumstances, and his police
friend predicting his own death and manner of death.
I am no fan of the supernatural. The back cover of the
book suggested that Jack Nightingale probably did not believe in the
supernatural either; however, author Leather forces his hero into
acknowledging the existence of the Devil and his court, but as well crafted
as the story might be, I was not drawn into the action as the finale
approached. Indeed, whilst up till the final chapters I could go along with
the plot, in the end I became annoyed with it. For me, it was almost as if
Stephen Leather had written himself into a corner and so dashed off a very
thin ending which could only use the supernatural as an explanation.
I’m sorry, pentagrams, magic circles and golden daggers
don’t do anything for me. If you enjoy witches, warlocks, astral projection
and the ability to see into the future, then you will enjoy this book. The
writing is Stephen Leather’s tight style, with mainly short paragraphs and
plenty of action to make you turn the pages. Jack Nightingale is a
believable character, but for me an atheist, Leather placed the character in
a non-believable plot.