The third book in the Nightside series is Nightingale’s Lament. This one starts out true to Simon R. Green’s usual form of an easy or near wrapped up case to whet our appetites. This case is one of sabotage at one of the Nightside’s power providers, Prometheus, Inc. Prometheus is run by one of John Taylor’s old aquaintences, a man referred to as the Mechanic because he could build anything.
Prometheus was experiencing all sorts of physical sabotage. Someone was literally tearing it apart and since Prometheus was a major player in the energy business, Walker sent John to figure out what was going on. What was going on was apparently the Mechanic had turned one of his friends, a man called the Sunslinger (powers of the sun, so a lot of energy right there). He’d murdered the Sunslinger on his wedding day (to another mutual friend) and stuck him in a spirit bottle to harness his sun energy. Well John will not stand for this. He releases the Sunslinger’s body and he finally gets peace with his (also dead) wife. The Mechanic dies quite violently at the hands of his energy harnessing machine, courtesy of John. This, of course, has the nasty consequence of causing power loss and rolling brownouts across the Nightside as Prometheus provided a solid chunk of power.
Knowing that this will come down hard on him, John skulks down to Strangefellows, hoping to hide from Walker and consequences. Only that doesn’t happen because he immediately comes upon a case. A father hires John to make sure that his daughter, an up and coming singer named Rossignol (French for nightingale) is okay. He doesn’t want John to drag the girl home, just to make sure that the daughter is happy and healthy since apparently the family hasn’t heard from her in a very long time and there are disturbing rumors surrounding her. It seems that Ross’s fans are starting to kill themselves, like a lot of them.
John reluctantly takes the case, though it doesn’t sound like his usual do. He soon finds out that he’s really quite wrong. There is something going on, he just can’t figure out what. There is no doubt in his mind that something is very wrong with Rossignol. He speaks to her face to face and she’s very vague and not quite focused. Concerned, he goes to see her representatives, the Cavendishes.
The Cavendishes just straight up have John beat down, no warnings. John manages to get away with the help of an old enemy, a blind vicar named Pew. Pew is convinced that John is an abomination and will bring about the end of the Nightside (the usual tale for John it seems). But as much as he wants John dead, he just can’t bring himself to kill him in cold blood. It isn’t honorable. So he helps John out with a healing spell and sends him on his way, not before trying to pull a fast one on John by taking John’s blood soaked coat. John lets him, as the coat self destructs when John gets too far away from it. I love the idea of John’s coat. It defends itself, self destructs when needed and hides all sorts of useful things. I want a coat like that. Well, maybe not the self destruction thing…
At any rate, John goes back to the place where Ross is performing, Caliban’s Cavern (a suitably monstrous name) in time to catch Ross’s latest performance. And he knows then that whatever happened to Ross is definitely causing people to kill themselves because of her singing. How does he know? Because an audience member kills himself at the club while she’s performing. But just what the hell is going on?
To help get answers, John goes to visit the Nightside newspaper the Night Times, run by Victorian adventurer and all around massively good guy Julian Advent. Julian fell through a timeslip long ago, having been pushed in there by his enemies the Murder Masques. Since then, Julian became an investigative reporter for the Night Times before becoming its owner/editor. He was still doing good and righting wrongs, just with the power of the news. So he always had an eye and ear on things.
After giving Julian the dish on the suicide-turned-riot at Caliban’s Cavern, the Night Times offices are beset by a tulpa of Ross. A tulpa is some sort of psychic sending. It looks like a person but isn’t one. It’s very fast, very strong and will only do what it’s programmed to do. In this case, attack John. It rampages through the reporter’s bullpen which startles a lot of people because the Night Times is seriously, seriously protected. Eventually, they find a single strand of the real Ross’s hair on John’s jacket and burn it. The tulpa gets destroyed and a somewhat aggravated Julian Advent sends John in search of the infamous Dead Boy, who knows more about death than everybody.
John finds Dead Boy outside the Nightside’s Necropolis, home to all funerals (and related rites) in the Nightside. Dead Boy has a job to do here. Since the power to the Necropolis was knocked out earlier (naughty John), some of those in the Necropolis who were cryofrozen started to thaw. And the thawed dead bodies got possessed by…something. Dead Boy was there to kick some arse on the basis that no one else really wanted to. John helps Dead Boy sort out the Necropolis mess, partly because it is his fault and partly because he wants Dead Boy in a cooperative mood.
After handling the situation (messily), Dead Boy agrees to help John with Ross. They sneak a message to Ross via one of her band members and meet her at a transvestite lounge called Divas! Divas! is a place where transvestites dress as famous women (mostly singers) and perform. A great place to surreptitiously meet up with a famous singer, don’t you think? Dead Boy thought so too.
Once Ross shows up, we find out that she is, in fact, dead. Or at least mostly dead. Only there’s no Miracle Max here to make a miracle pill. They figure out that the Cavendishes murdered Ross to make her more pliable. This information doesn’t help John figure out how to help Ross. And it seems like that won’t happen as the Harrowing show up suddenly. John has used his gift one too many times and the Harrowing have found him.
With time running out for him, John tries to get Dead Boy to run with Ross, but she’s not having any of it. John is her only chance to fix what happened. Luckily for John, the Cavendishes’ hired gun, the new Count Entropy (formerly The Jonah), really wants John to suffer at his hands before he dies. He gets rid of the Harrowing using his awful magicks and proceeds to James Bond Villain the whole how-to. Trope-y for certain but I’ve watched enough “true crime” shows to know that some people actually do like to brag about their crimes, so we can suspend disbelief for this bit.
Finally, unable to take the bragging over her death any longer, Ross deliberately sings a sad song knowing that the full concentrated force of her accidental ability will lead to Count Entropy’s death. Spoilers: It does. Count Entropy pops out of existence and with that, the only thing holding Ross to the world. Some wishy-washy, time-wimey magic between John and Dead Boy brings Ross back. The Cavendishes try to finish the job themselves only to be stopped by Julian Advent (who was literally waiting in the wings at Divas!) and walker.
Its a good book but not one of my favorite Nightsides. It sort of felt to me like a filler story between Agents of Light and Darkness and the next book Hex and the City (Simon R Green has pun-y titles). The best part of the story, I think, is the introduction of Dead Boy who is one of my all time favorite Simon R Green characters. He is completely irreverent and just a bit crazy. At any rate, its a decent book and I’d rate it a solid B-/B. Again, it felt like a filler novel.