Leather, Stephen - 'Nightmare'
This latest 'Jack Nightingale' thriller continues on from where the second one, MIDNIGHT, left off and whilst the author Stephen Leather goes to considerable pains to describe the back story of what occurred previously, it is in the readers own interest to read the earlier ones first.
Detective Superintendent Chalmers has got it in for our protagonist Jack Nightingale, who was a former Detective Inspector in the Metropolitan Police before he was sacked for the alleged murder of the incestuous father of a nine-year-old girl. Since then, most of Jack's relations and friends have died in suspicious circumstances. Chalmers believes Jack is guilty of at least one murder but cannot find the evidence to charge him. Jacks biological father sold his son's soul to a devil at birth and Jack was brought up by foster parents. This biological father has since died by suicide and Jack has been left his mansion house with no furniture as these were sold off to pay his father's debts, but the basement is filled with satanic books and furnishings.
Jacks troubles originally started when as a hostage negotiator/marksman in the police force, he was called to a situation where a nine-year-old girl, Sophie, was threatening to jump from the thirteenth floor balcony of a block of flats. Jack tries to reason with her, but he is alone without the usual backup and the girl tragically falls to her death, before he has said much to her. Jack is haunted with flashbacks and nightmares about this terrible accident and feels that Sophie is trying to contact him from beyond the grave. Jack goes to a spiritualist meeting and also tries to contact Sophie through a medium but feels that he is being conned.
Jack works as a private investigator, but as he was formerly a detective inspector in the Metropolitan Police he still has a lot of contacts amongst his former colleagues. He has an office with a personal assistant Jenny McLean in Bayswater. Jenny who is from a very wealthy background, adds a real charm to the story. She does a lot of research for him and all of his paperwork and doesn't seem to mind doing a job which she finds really interesting but she could earn much more elsewhere. One day whilst he is walking to Queensway tube station he gets innocently involved in a shoot-out between South London gang members and another person but feels that he personally may have been the original target.
There are a lot of killings and plenty of violence in this book. The heightened degree of tension seems to be alleviated by Jack getting through a an extraordinary amount of cigarettes. His smoking habits seem to be mentioned quite a lot, perhaps to rack up the tension.
This extraordinary thriller, like the others in this series, is very reminiscent of the novels of Dennis Wheatley such as The Devil Rides Out and The Satanist, but is updated for the twenty-first 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 the paraphernalia to do with Satanism, but it is all fully explained.
All in all, though this is quite a long book, as the author likes to write as if he was the driver of an express train, the pages just flew by; I was so gripped by the desperate race to prevent Nightingale's damnation. The extraordinary and completely unpredictable ending of this outstanding story was so incredibly imaginative, that I cannot wait to see how the next book in this series, by this very versatile and prolific author will be tackled.
Terry Halligan, England