MIDNIGHT

Written by Stephen Leather

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung


MIDNIGHT
Hodder & Stoughton
RRP: £12.99
Released: 20th January 2011
Trade Paperback

With twenty or so titles behind him, including seven in the Spider Shepherd series, Stephen Leather signposted a change in style when he swapped from two word to one word titles with Nightfall, his first Jack Nightingale supernatural thriller. Midnight is the second in the series, and a third will complete the trilogy.

 

Jack Nightingale is an ex-copy, now trying to make a living as a private investigator with Jenny McLean as his faithful Girl Friday. Jack might be thought to be well-to-do by some because apart from his grotty flat in London he was inherited a mansion in Essex. Jack knows that some heirlooms come with covenants and such is Jack’s estate, because Jack has discovered that his family, now long deceased, were a couple who adopted him and his true father while wealthy – the house was once his – was also a Satanist who sold Jack’s soul to the Devil. The Devil is now, it seems, intent on collecting but while Jack resists many innocent people get in the way and suffer for it. In other cases perhaps the innocents die simply so that Jack can suffer while watching them die. It is really bad luck that Jack should be visiting so many people when they are taken over by a death wish that they commit suicide while Jack watches involuntarily.

 

Jack’s former colleagues find his attendance statistically unsatisfactory, thinking it more likely that he is a serial killer. In turn this means that Jack when stumbling on yet another death is more likely to try to wipe his fingerprints and slip away unnoticed, which makes the police – slipping away unnoticed is something Jack does not seem able to do – even more suspicious. If only they could slip into a pentagram as Jack does and converse with the minor devils waiting for his soul.

 

Despite all this there are killers to be caught and Girls Friday to be thanked. Jack also has a secret sister, again with a soul sold to the devil, who has also been fitted up as a serial killer, whom familiar care demands should be cleared. Is this Dennis Wheatley territory brought up to date? Not being familiar with Wheatley’s supernatural thrillers I cannot say, but compared to even older authors such as William Hope Hodgson and his Carnacki the Ghost-Finder or Dion Fortune and her Doctor Taverner I thought Midnight was weak, or perhaps mis-described, because it reads like a Young Adult novel. Readers who like to bring death back into the real world and interested to know more about strange ways of death (and the ways of the suicides seen by Jack Nightingale are strange indeed) should obtain a copy of Tony Collins’ Open Verdict, a true crime investigation of deaths in the defence industry in the late 1980s. Satan may or may not be real, but unpleasant death is with us always. Midnight repeats that.

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