Jack Nightingale: Nightfall by Stephen Leather – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews Nightfall, written by Stephen Leather, published by Hodder and Stoughton Books in the UK.
“A creepy, bloody tale that will keep you up all night.” ~The Founding Fields
I was first introduced to Stephen Leather when a publisher-dispatched copy of the third novel in the Jack Nightingale series, Nightmare, arrived on my doorstep sometime last month. It looked like a pretty interesting concept and I tried having a go at reading it without prior knowledge of the prequels, but was too confused so I decided to go back to the start when I found a copy of Nightmare a few weeks ago, and I managed to read and enjoy it. I haven’t read a lot of horror novels and I know it’s a genre that I need to read more of (along with urban fantasy, steampunk, crime/thriller, superhero graphic novels etc), so I figured that I’d start with Nightfall. And, what a novel it was – I was surprised at actually how good it was. However, it wasn’t a perfect read though, as Nightfall did have some flaws.
‘You are going to Hell, Jack Nightingale.’ They are the words that ended Jack Nightingale’s career as a negotiator with the Metropolitan Police. But two years later, when Nightingale is a struggling Private Eye, the words come back to haunt him. Nightingale discovers that he was adopted at birth and that his real father, a confirmed Satanist, sold Nightingale’s soul to a demon from Hell. And on his thirty-third birthday – just weeks away – the demon is coming to claim its prize.
Nightfall is a fast-paced 105,000 words and is the first in a trilogy about the occult detective.
The novel does have an interesting premise. Sure, any fan of the urban fantasy subgenre will know that an occult detective is so common that it’s on the verge of becoming a subgenre of its own (a subgenre within a subgenre within a genre… Inception!), but what makes it different is that its a horror novel and not an urban fantasy one. Jack Nightingale isn’t going to ward off zombies with a T-Rex in the middle of Chicago, like in Jim Butcher’s Dead Beat, but what Jack Nightingale is going to do is get himself thrust into sticky situations and that makes the outcome far from predictable, which adds to the enjoyment and the scare-factor of Nightfall. I’ll admit that it’s pretty scary, okay – not as scary as say, Blink, (Doctor Who Series 3 Episode), but it will creep you out for sure, despite the fact that it could’ve used a lot more suspense.
The characters are interesting and as you continue to read you’ll begin to notice more and more that nobody is safe in this book, as the dramatis personae keeps getting shorter one character by one, and you’ll reach a certain point in this novel where you think… hang on, Nightingale might not actually make it out alive. But of course he does – because there’s more to come in the series that feature the author. In fact, being three books behind never helps, and I wish that I’d discovered this book earlier.
The tale is spanned over seventy seven chapters, and even though it’s packed full of detail it will still manage to keep you turning the pages, especially with the shortness of the chapters, and it’s easy to keep saying ‘I’ll read one more chapter’, only to find out that you’re reading two, or even three more than you should be. It’s a page-turner, sure. However, as I mentioned earlier, it’s not perfect, and I do have a few issues with Nightfall.
The novel constantly overloads you with action scene after action scene, and which add to the page-turning element of the book. However, whilst for some this may be a good thing, when it comes to big encounters, including the final showdown, you don’t enjoy it as much as you would have done – because it may feel like you’re reading something that you’ve already read. And on top of that, it’s not as well-written as it could be, with the writing feeling somewhat sloppy at places, and the novel also took a while to get used to, which is a shame, as Nightfall could be a lot better.
However, that said – I didn’t struggle to read it as I actually was kept entertained throughout Nightfall, and the ‘cliffhanger’ has managed to leave me wondering what Leather can bring to the table in Midnight, book two of Stephen Leather’s series, which I should be picking up when I can.
More Jack Nightingale: Nightfall, Midnight, Nightmare.