Nightfall (Nightingale: Book One)
by Stephen Leather
Review by Gayle Surrette
47North Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781612182292
Date: 20 March 2012 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Nightfall opens with a flashback of two years, when Jack Nightingale was with the police and trained as a negotiator. He was called to talk down a jumper. When he arrived, the jumper turned out to be a nine-year-old girl, Sophie Underwood. During Jack conversation with her he learns that she's been abused for years. She jumps. Jack is shattered and goes to the office of her father -- her father goes through the twelfth story window to his death. Jack never talked about what happened in that room. After the investigation, he resigned. Now he has his own private investigation firm with just enough work to keep the bills paid -- mostly -- and an over-qualified secretary, Jenny McLean.
Back in the present, Jack gets a call from a solicitor requesting him to come to his office. When Jack arrives, the solicitor informs him that his father has died and he, Jack, is the sole beneficiary of the will. Jack's bemused by this since his parents died in a car crash just before his nineteenth birthday and he's now nearly thirty-three.
Thus begins Jack Nightingale's troubles. In short order, just about everyone who could supply him with information about his parents, either the people he thought were his parents, or the man who claims he was his genetic parent, dies. Jack has to do some quick thinking to not be blamed for the deaths as the department head two years ago, Chalmers, has had it in for him ever since.
I'd never read anything by Stephen Leather before and this was a treat. I enjoy psychological horror but I'm not at all fond of hack and slash horror. Leather slowly builds tension as Jack's world is turned upside down when he learns that he was adopted and his genetic father sold his soul to a devil at his birth.
Jack Nightingale is not a religious man, but he needs answers. Everything he thought he knew and everything he believed is in turmoil. Jack always believed that when you die you're dead. Now he's desperate to find out if devils exist, is there a hell or a heaven, can a soul be sold by someone other than the owner, does a soul exist in the first place.
Vicars, priest, wiccan's, Satanists, no one can give him a definitive answer. With no answers and the deadline approaching, Jack has to decide just what he believes and what he can and is willing to do to save himself.
The writing is so compelling that even when you want to whack Jack with a clue stick and yell, "suck it up and get a plan." You keep reading because of the edginess of dealing with death -- a specific death, Jack's. The questions are real and ones most of us at one time or another have discussed as an intellectual exercise with friends, but for Jack it's not an exercise -- he needs to know. Leathers manages to capture that desperation and use it to drive the plot and keep the reader engaged.