Stephen Leather has forged a considerable reputation over the last two decades as someone that writes cleverly plotted thrillers. These most recently have featured ex-sas soldiers and undercover policemen. So it might be a surprise to his loyal fans to find this latest book is about a man that discovers his soul has been sold to the devil.
Jack Nightingale was a police negotiator, after an apparent suicide where Jack is implicated as a possible suspect he is forced to resign from the force and become a Private Investigator. Then he discovers he has inherited a large mansion, a fortune in books and that his soul was sold to the devil the day he was born. The devil will collect on his thirty third birthday, three weeks away. Jack is a man that has no belief in gods or devils, finding the whole premise implausible he sets out to discover the truth.
My thoughts on the book as a whole are mixed. There are great characters but I can't help feeling an opportunity has been missed. If you have watched any of the horror movies of the 1970's and 80's this book will often feel like a rerun. There is almost nothing here that is original to the genre. In fact for the first 300 pages it reminded me a great deal of James Herbert mixed with the Omen movies. There was not even any attempt to make a countdown or drama of the final three weeks. One minute it's three weeks and then with barely a waft of suspense and almost a book later we are suddenly down to a few days. It might be Stephen Leather is trying to branch out to a new younger audience and no longer needs forty something duffers with higher expectations.
Stephen Leather is not shy of lacing moral viewpoints into his stories and in this Jack Nightingale engages in many conversations on the merits of god's existence and therefore of the devil and hell. This was all very basic though, avoiding any subjects of real interest. There is one very good scene though, in a graveyard with Nightingale alone with a bottle of cheap plonk.
Despite this story often feeling like all the horror cliches of the late last century and the story really never capturing my imagination, there are some great characters. Jack himself and his put upon assistant Jenny especially were definitely people I wanted to know more about come the end. A lot of their dialogue and for that matter across the characters will bring a smile to your face and was very witty. These two characters and the promise for everything that has been setup for Jack's future, means I will look forward to v.2 in the Nightingale series. To keep me interested enough to want v.3 the story will have to offer a lot more.