Leather, Stephen - 'Midnight'
This latest 'Jack Nightingale' thriller continues on from where the first one, NIGHTFALL, 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 interest to read the earlier one first. Jack's whole world was turned upside down when he learnt that he had inherited a huge country mansion from a father he never knew he had. Apart from this he also learnt that he has a sister that he never knew and that like him his deceased father had sold her soul to the Devil, when she was born.
Jack works as a private investigator but he was formerly a Detective Inspector in the Metropolitan Police and still has a lot of contacts amongst his former colleagues. He discovers that his half-sister (same father but different mother) is a serial killer doing life for the murder of five children. She pleaded guilty at her trial and is now in Rampton Secure Prison in Nottinghamshire. Jack has a personal assistant Jenny, who is from a very wealthy background and 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.
Jack makes arrangements through the proper channels to visit and to discover what his sister is like. The visit to Rampton reminded me of the prison featured in Porridge with Ronnie Barker: a large Victorian building where there is a lot of noise of keys going into big locks on doors and the opening and closing of secure doors until the inner sanctum area is reached. Jack after meeting his sister is convinced that she is innocent of the crimes she has been convicted of and spends a lot of time and personal resources to find out if his hunch is correct or not.
There are a lot of killings and plenty of violence in this book and as a result a heightened degree of tension which Jack seems to alleviate by getting through a colossal amount of cigarettes. His smoking habits seem to be mentioned quite a lot, to rack up the tension perhaps and I wondered whether the author is a smoker, as particular brand names are mentioned several times.
The rest of the story is a desperate race to find a way of avoiding his sister's final damnation. To this end he consults many of the occult books in his late father's strange basement library and also Joshua Wainwright, an American multi-millionaire Satanist whom he befriends. The story speeds on to a completely unexpected finale.
This extraordinary series is very reminiscent of novels of Dennis Wheatley, such as The Devil Rides Out, but is updated for the twenty-first century. The author has applied his usual in-depth research techniques to his subject very well and makes reference in passing to a great deal of detail of the devil hierarchy in Hell and other Satanic paraphernalia.
All in all, though this is quite a long book, the pages just flew by as I was so gripped by the desperate race to prevent Nightingale's sister's damnation. The author seems to be producing one "Jack Nightingale" occult book as well as a Dan "Spider" Shepherd, the ex-SAS super-cop per year. I wonder whether he can keep up such a pace and do promotional book tours as well? I cannot wait to read the next instalment of this exciting series.
Terry Halligan, England