Leather, Stephen - 'Nightfall'
This exceptional latest thriller from Stephen Leather introduces Jack Nightingale as his new hero. Jack's whole world is turned upside down when he learns he has inherited a huge country mansion from a father he never knew he had. Unfortunately, with the legacy has come a terrible curse.
This unknown father has sold Jack's soul, at birth, to a devil and this entity will collect its due debt at midnight on Jack's thirty-third birthday (some three weeks away). Every relative that Jack has, is found dead in mysterious but explainable circumstances. Usually, in each case near the dead body is a curse written in blood saying "Jack Nightingale you are going to Hell", which scares Jack extremely.
Consequently, he is drinking much more than normal and he finds it very difficult to concentrate on his daily business as private detective when he thinks he may only have three weeks to live. He was formerly a London Metropolitan Police armed response negotiator until two people died in mysterious circumstances on his watch and he abruptly resigned.
He finds himself investigating any lead connected to the deaths of his relatives and a friend that has died. Jack is a confirmed atheist and does not usually believe in Hell, or in fact Heaven either, but whatever the explanation, a lot of people that he knew well and he was close to, are being found dead in the most brutal manner.
The rest of the story is a desperate race to find a way out of avoiding his final damnation (if he accepts a belief in such a thing). To this end he consults priests, both Anglican and Roman Catholic for clearer explanations of his predicament. The story speeds on to a completely unexpected finale.
This extraordinary thriller is very reminiscent of the novels of Dennis Wheatley such as The Devil Rides Out, The Satanist etc, but is updated for the 21st Century, as of course Wheatley was writing from the 1930s onwards. The author has applied his usual in-depth research techniques to his subject very well and makes reference in passing to several websites dealing with subjects such as Satanism.
I could not put this book down it seemed until I reached the final page, I was so gripped by the desperate race to prevent Nightingale's damnation. It is a complete change of genre for this author and I wonder whether he is going to use this new occultism style instead of the manner he has used for his previous twenty novels.
All in all the book is quite outstanding and quite a departure from the tried and tested formula he usually employs with his previous hero Dan "Spider" Shepherd, the ex-SAS super-cop.
Read another review of NIGHTFALL.
Terry Halligan, England