Hodder & Stoughton tbp £12.99
Released: January 2010
Reviewer: Adrian Magson
Adrian Magson is the author of the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer series published by Crème de la Crime. Visit www.adrianmagson.com for more.
Jack Nightingale’s career as a negotiator with the Met Police reaches an abrupt end when, after failing to prevent a 9-year-old girl leaping to her death, he is the only person present when her long-term abusive father takes a dive from the 20th floor of his office block.
Choosing to remain silent about his part in the man’s death, although lauded by his police colleagues for his supposed actions, Jack becomes a private detective, scratching a living from divorce work. His fortunes appear to take a turn for the better, however, when he learns that he has been left a mansion by a man claiming to be his father. For Jack this is a huge shock, as he has always viewed the late Irene and Bill Nightingale, the couple who brought him up, as his parents.
But the surprises don’t stop there; the dead man, Ainsley Gosling, has also left Jack a personal video in which he reveals that not only did he give him away as a baby, he sold his soul to a devil. Furthermore, on his 33rd birthday, that devil will come to claim his part of the bargain… Jack’s soul.
Stubbornly sceptical, Jack visits the mansion, and finds disturbing evidence that Gosling had a more than passing interest in devil-worship and the occult. His state of unease about all this is not helped by the fact that he keeps hearing total strangers telling him, “You’re going to hell, Jack Nightingale.” and even sees it scrawled in blood at a murder scene.
Sustained by friends and his determined and loyal secretary, Jenny, he can’t help but feel a growing sense of unreality, where his life seems to be changing faster – and growing shorter, if the video is to be believed - than he can cope with. And when people around him start dying, including a demented woman who turns out to be his birth-mother, it’s no surprise that the normally pragmatic Jack Nightingale begins to wonder if he isn’t going mad.
This is a tautly-plotted story of a man faced with the unimaginable; where, as time goes by and with evidence mounting which goes against everything he holds true, his sense of equilibrium becomes ever more jaded and out of kilter. Yet Jack is a survivor, and he fights to use all his skills and determination to find out the truth and put it right – whatever that right might be.
It would be unfair to say more, save that the pace simply never lets up, from the shocking start, where the little girl chooses to slip quietly and with touching dignity to her death rather than stay on in the world, to the surprising and electrifying ending. The twists and turns are savage, adding to Jack’s torment, and the domino effect of shocks to his system are unrelenting.
It got so that the only way to finish this book was at a gallop, and I wasn’t disappointed by the denouement.
It’s harsh, it’s tense, it’s stunningly controlled and executed.
Stephen Leather is the author of twenty other novels, including ‘‘The Double Tap’, ‘The Bombmaker’ and ‘Tunnel Rats’. See his website: www.stephenleather.com
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