When we last left hard-boiled and supernaturally-inclined PI Jack Nightingale (in Nightmare‘s prequel Midnight) he’d met with the demon Proserpine to discuss her numerous and quite flagrant attempts to kill him. That meeting had concluded with something of an uncomfortable revelation for Jack, and a realisation that he really needed to stop trying to read the intentions and guesswork of the otherworldly and diabolically-evil-influenced party-set.
Nightmare, the third book in the series, opens at a rapid pace. Leather is an author adept at getting his readers turning the pages of his books eagerly, and there’s little time for dallying around here. So it is that Jack’s pulled from his flat by the police, who seem to perpetually flick between both needing and deploring him in some way or other, and carted off swiftly to assist them with their enquiries.
It turns out that a coma patient, Dwayne Robinson, who’s a victim of a shooting sometime before, has started speaking whilst in a state of torpor. And it’s Jack’s name that he’s been calling out. This is a problem for several reasons; the police are now motivated to charge Jack for attempted murder in the shooting of Robinson, but more seriously for Jack – the voice appears to be from the grave, and seems to be asking him for help.
It’s a dark and moody series of events that unwind from this point, with references and calling to things in the past, including the death of a child in an event that haunts Jack – a man who is most definitely not one to have his feather’s easily ruffled. The reader is constantly kept drawn to the mystery and evolutions of plot in a most compelling manner; I found myself not wanting to put this one down at more than a few points.
One of the things about Leather’s writing is that I believe it makes his work, and in this case specifically, the horror genre, very accessible. Sometimes it’s quite tricky pushing or recommending a horror novel to someone who ‘wouldn’t touch the genre’ due to some bias or prejudgement (more pity them, aye) but I would recommend the Nightingale books to those who might not normally read the genre, but who want to dip their toes in the water.
As the twists and turns abound, we discover more about Jack and his past, and those around him too. Jack also gets involved with the underworld, brushing with dangers as malevolent to him as the supernatural ones he’s trying to get to the bottom of.
The primary problem for Jack, and one that weaves throughout the novel , is one of communications issues. He’s got a line through to the other side, but it’s far from reliable (even when his contacts may seem to be), and is occasionally one-way, and not everyone seems to be picking up the call. The enigmatic nature of the messages which he’s receiving add to both his own frustrations, and pique both his own curiosity and the readers.
Coupled with this his ever growing list of enemies both in this world and that of the beyond which would normally cripple a lesser man, but he’s also got smarts, and friends, luckily. There are some crazy twists for sure – and towards the end indeed some really interesting and quite chaotic ideas put into implementation.
All in all this an entertaining read – and despite being the third book in the series Nightmare reads perfectly well as a stand-alone. Here is a modern-day London, warts and all, dipped with a paranormal glaze for the reader wanting a nice quick-fix of pulp action-horror mystery-fiction. Its down-to-earth, pragmatic manner may not be for everyone, granted, but it’s satisfying enough to recommend, and as with Leather’s earlier Nightingale endeavours has left this reader waiting for the next instalment. And I am really curious as to how that’ll turn out.