According to Christopher Booker, there are seven basic plots when it comes to story telling and he is probably right, but what makes the difference is the story teller, the characters they create and the twist they give to the basic plot.
One such author is Stephen Leather and the name of his creation is Jack Nightingale. And he uses basic plot number one – ‘Overcoming the Monster where the hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it’.
Nightingale is a former police negotiator whose career went very wrong so that he had to leave the force and set himself up as a private investigator. So far, so formulaic, but the twist is that his metaphorical inner demons become real ones as the story mixes classic and occult detective storylines.
The first three books in the series were very personal to Nightingale himself – you can’t get much more personal than when you are playing to save your own soul and those of your nearest and dearest. Nightshade is a departure since our hero isn’t personally bound to the outcome other still being on the side of the angels.
He faces evil both mortal and metaphysical, starting with the violent deaths of eight children and a teacher in a shooting spree at a school in Berwick and when Nightingale is asked to investigate reasons why by the killer’s brother.
Alongside that, something odd is going on involving a little girl rescued from the clutches of a paedophile and her apparent miraculous return from the dead.
I shan’t say more or risk spoiling the plot, other than to say it leads him to meet his old ally/enemy, the demon Prosperine, and to tie up another loose end from the previous books.
As Leather writes on his blog, the fourth in the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series was always going to be difficult to write, since it was only ever intended as a trilogy, but he does pull it off with an engrossing plot and sharp writing style. If anything, Nightshade is better than his previous novel.
I also agree with him that the Nightingale stories are perfect material for a tv series and I suspect that if he were on the other side of the Atlantic then the production companies would be in a bidding war for the franchise rights!
But more than anything else I hope there are more Jack Nightingale books to come. I really need to know just what Prosperine was hinting at when she warned him about Mrs Steadman…..