Simon R. Green Nightingale's Lament Reviewed by Rick Kleffel

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Nightingale's Lament

Simon R. Green

Ace Fantasy / Penguin Putnam

US Mass Market Paperback

ISBN 0-441-01163-2

Publication Date: 04-27-2004

217 Pages; $6.50

Date Reviewed: 08-09-04

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2004



Horror, Mystery, Fantasy, Science Fiction

03-07-02, 05-28-02, 05-15-03, 06-14-04

Sometimes readers are in the right place at the right time to follow a writer who undertakes to write a series. That was the case for me with Simon R. Green. It was little more than a year ago since the release of 'Something from the NightSide', the first of his compact 'Novels of the NightSide'. In little over a year, he's managed to bring out 'Agents of Light and Darkness' and now 'Nightingale's Lament'. In spite of the fast pace at which Green has been writing the novels, I've been able to keep up, in no small part because these lightweight novels are extremely well-written, consistently imaginative and lots of fun. They read like lightning, without the unpleasant burning effects or sulfuric smells.

In the dark heart of London, where it's always 3 AM and gods and monsters stroll alongside the humans, John Taylor is once again up to good that at first bears a singular appearance to no good. As 'Nightingale's Lament' begins, he's trying to find out how Prometheus Power has come to grab a big chunk of the NightSide's power market. His search ends lamentably, but it's not the only lament he's going to hear. Hiding out from The Authorities afterwards, he's contacted by Charles Chabron, "large as life and twice as French." Chabron hires Taylor to find his daughter, Rossingnol, who is under the sway of the Cavendishes, a sinister pair of promoters who have her billed as the latest singing sensation. The trouble is, she only sings sad songs, and those who hear them are prone to end their lives.

'Nightingale's Lament' offers all the pleasures of the previous novels while still seeming fresh. Green's prose is consistently funny, and protagonist John Taylor tries to be bad enough to keep him from seeming too good. He pops off a number of memorable one-liners, and his patter is consistently entertaining. The NightSide is entertainingly explored, and Green creates several scenes of horrifically imaginative awe. Green is a remarkably effective writer, and his work here is exemplary. In the midst of a seemingly breezy narrative, he'll casually unleash a detailed, inspired description of soul-searing terror. It provides an effective contrast to the otherwise humorous tone.

Green's characterization deserves praise as well as his prose. Rather than relying on the sidekicks from his previous novels, he creates a couple of entertaining new characters, Julien the newspaper editor and Dead Boy. Between the two of them, readers get a few laughs, some memorable grue, some entertaining one-offs and buckets of blood. Green is ruthlessly economical. He makes every word count. The plotting for this novel is admirably tight. Green even manages to end things with an almost poetic, wistful note.

At a mere 217 pages, the novel barely gets past novella length, but that's all for the best. Neither Simon R. Green nor John Taylor is in any danger of wearing out their welcome. Ace includes a whopping 27-page excerpt from the latest Charlaine Harris novel at the end of 'Nightgale's Lament', which makes the book look bigger than it really is. But don't be fooled. Simon R. Green is a man who knows what works and delivers that, only that and not a single word more. Like his protagonist John Taylor, Green is a finder, and what manages to home in on is no less than a perfectly satisfying reading experience.