Nightmare by Stephen Leather
This is book 3 in the Jack Nightingale series and is yet another strong addition to what is one of the more unusual yet engrossing story-lines.
Nightingale is a former cop with the London Met who doubled as a hostage negotiator. It was as a crisis manager that he first encountered 9 year old Sophie, a child in despair and suffering from sexual abuse by her banker father.
When Jack is called to a high-rise apartment building, Sophie is preparing to jump from her balcony. Nightingale tries but fails to talk the poor girl out of her intent and she tragically dies. Jack decides to pay her father a visit and somehow the pervert finds himself falling out a window to meet a similar fate to that of his tortured daughter. Nightingale leaves the police force under a cloud of suspicion to become a private investigator.
His biological father has died and bequeathed Jack a large mansion house and estate named Gosling Manor. In a secret, underground cellar, the ardent PI discovers a library full of very rare and valuable books, all concerning the subject of black magic and the dark arts. It emerges that Jack’s old man was a well-practiced and respected Satanist (at least in as much as a Satanist can ever be respected). Cue all sorts of supernatural mishaps and mayhem.
Jack begins to hear voices, all claiming to be Sophie calling for help from the other side. But our intrepid PI has had previous dealings with demons and evil spirits and is wary. He knows that his very soul is at stake. When Jack is accused of having murdering a major London drug dealer, he sets out to clear his name whilst avoiding the traps laid for him by the dark forces that follow his life and have selected him for special attention.
As the drug gang hunt Jack in pursuit of revenge, Jack struggles to cope with his legacy and memories of Sophie. He has the added pressure of being in the cross-hairs of his former Superintendent who wants Jack locked up. On the bright side, there are many book dealers and Satanists who want to pay large sums of money for Jack’s inherited books, so it’s not all bad. He also has the pleasure of the company of the delightful Jenny who is his secretary but who also has something of a crush on our hero.
The Jack Nightingale series is a joy. It’s not your typical run-of-the-mill thriller. It’s got all sorts of weird goings-on, but isn’t overly heavy with it. It’s set in England, London mostly, so makes a pleasant change from the myriad US settings that many notable English and Irish authors opt for these days. This series would transfer nicely onto the silver screen.
Aside from all the magic and supernatural capers, there are also gunfights, punch-ups, drunkenness (former cop you know) and unrequited love – Jenny really is delectable and desirable and Rebel Voice would like to have a secretary just like her although accepts that such a pretty distraction would mean little work gets done. Still…
Jack really needs to get his act together and win Jenny over. He would also need to deal with all the paranormal lunacy that surrounds him. He’s not getting any younger, and running around London avoiding demonic possession is cramping his social life. Why exactly Jenny is attracted to Jack is one of those mysteries that only women know and seldom reveal, to men at any rate.
All-in-all, Nightmare is a strong read that will satisfy those who enjoy supernatural thrillers. It’s not Charlie Parker, but it’s not far away.
Sult scale rating: 8 out of 10. Recommended, even if read out of sequence. Should make you want another helping.
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