Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid


Stephen 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.