Midnight by Stephen Leather

Posted on 22nd January 2011 in Reviews

midnight-book-coverJack Nightingale’s sister is going to die. This raises something of a problem for the private investigator-cum-supernatural-dabbler, as not only does he not know where his sister is, he also doesn’t know who she is.

This enigma is further compounded by a surreal body-count that’s stacking up around him (and following him from the first book in this series, Nightfall), a police force persistently chasing him, and a series of freakish, paranormal events intertwining with almost everything that’s going on.

It’s not just a few innocuous bump-in-the-night-style spooky goings on that are crimping his style and threatening his livelihood, or life, either.  The otherworldly influences are fairly hardcore: sinister demonic messages, irate demons, hazardous Ouija board sessions, possession-influenced suicides, and a chain of killings going-off in the background like a Catherine wheel.

The novel’s twist on the private detective theme offers up an interesting evolution of the traditional hard-boiled detective novel; whilst it’s not The Maltese Falcon, and don’t get me wrong here as it’s really not aiming to be, it introduces a great balance between that and a good pulp-horror book.

Nightingale’s not perfect; he’s a flawed action figure. He likes a smoke, a drink too – as one might expect a gumshoe to, and he’s not afraid to take risks in situations really better left alone.  But then the world he’s living and operating in isn’t your usual archetypal pulp-fiction one.

Whether he’s plying his investigative talents on the streets of South East London or rural Wales, he frequents places where some pretty freaky stuff is happening. And he’s often not just visiting from a curiosity angle either.  He’s into his Wicca, knows how to draw and operate a pentagram, run a séance and Ouija-sitting.  Not only that, but it’s not the usual perps that he’s shaking down for help and information, but powerful-beyond-words, angry and quite evil demonic beings.

Whilst this subject matter might normally add up to a clichéd or contrived outing, Leather has actually created a protagonist who really is atypical in the world of horror fiction.  As someone who reads a fair amount of books purporting to be of this flavour, I’ve not read anything that’s taken quite this slant on the genre before. And definitely not something as succinct as this.  Joseph Creed from James Herbert’s novel Creed comes a little close, but Midnight is as different as it is, dare I use the cursed adjective, interesting.

Nightingale’s adventures read like slick serial detective fiction (technically it is).  Coupled with some seriously hellish voodoo-style happenings there’s plenty here to make the reader sit up and get flicking through the pages quickly and to satisfying conclusion.

Author Stephen Leather’s second outing with Jack Nightingale is as scary as it is exciting and fast-paced.  Midnight is part pulp-fiction, part horror outing with a healthy twist of macabre.  I’ve been wary of certain franchises veering down this direction in the past, but this series is clearly off to a consistent start and I look forward to reading more of Nightingale’s adventures in the future.


Buy this book: UK

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