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Author: Stephen Leather

Title: Midnight

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Hardback: 473 pages

ISBN: 978-1-444-70066-4

Price: £19.99

Publication Date: 20/01/2011

Having spent his thirty-third birthday battling to save his soul from the demon Proserpine [in 2010’s supernatural-thriller Nightfall], ex-police negotiator turned private detective Jack Nightingale might have been forgiven for thinking he deserved a rest. Unfortunately for Jack [and fortunately for the reader], Hell waits for no man and now he has another soul to save – his sister’s.

Jack never knew this [half] sister existed. Until he receives a DVD from the man claiming to be their biological father – Ainsley Gosling, a Satanist and devil-worshipper who sold both of his children’s souls to demons [thank heavens my father didn’t think of this when I was going through my terrible teenage phase!]. But in order to save this sister he has never met, Nightingale must first find her – a task made increasingly difficult by the fact that the people he talks to keep dying horribly. Inevitably, unwanted police attention follows, not least in the form of Jack’s nemesis, Superintendent Chalmers and Jack finds himself repeatedly pulled in for questioning.

But part of Jack’s appeal is his maverick ways. A little heat from the police isn’t going to stop him from using any means, fair or foul, to track down his sister. And with his heavy-duty smoking habit and dark, laconic sense of humour, Jack reminds me of another occult detective, Alan Moore’s comic book anti-hero John Constantine [which was turned into an execrable Hollywood film, Constantine, with a wooden Keanu Reeves in the title role – but don’t let that put you off the comic book version!].

And from the opening pages of Midnight, when the corpse of a woman who has recently committed suicide begins to speak to Nightingale, the reader knows that they’ve entered a gritty and macabre world that is very different from the type of crime fiction that they’re used to.

But this is not to say that the book is unremittingly dark. For there are a number of welcome and very enjoyable moments of humour throughout the novel, not least in the form of the verbal sparring and tetchy relationship that exists between Jack and his long-suffering assistant Jenny McLean [who, one suspects, continues to put up with Jack’s ‘difficult’ ways only because she is hiding deeper feelings for him].

When, last year, Leather broke away from his tried-and-tested action-thriller formula with the first in the Jack Nightingale series, Nightfall, it was a surprising change of direction but one which worked incredibly well. Midnight builds upon the groundwork of the first book and is, in my opinion, an even better read. And with its blend of crime fiction and supernatural thriller and Leather’s clever plotting and prose, this is a series that stands out from the competition.
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