BOOK: A Walk on the Nightside by Simon R. Green (2006)

Last year, a friend of mine loaned me a big stack of Simon Green’s books.  This was the first one in the pile, and though I actually finished reading it sometime before Christmas, I only just recently realized I had never gotten around to writing it up.  Let’s chalk it up to holiday scramble.  And/or to the fact it’s a fairly might tome — a big fatty containing the first three books in Green’s “Nightside” series: Something from the Nightside, Agents of Light and Darkness, and Nightingale’s Lament.

The series is about a private detective, John Taylor, who has a supernatural gift of sorts and spends most of his time solving cases in an other-worldly section of London known as “the Nightside.”  The Nightside is a dangerous, magical place, full of serious bad guys, all kinds of weird creatures, and a multitude of eerie sights and sounds.  As the series opens, Taylor, born in the Nightside, has finally managed to escape its pull, moving into an ordinary brownstone in the ordinary city and making a fairly satisfying life for himself as an ordinary PI in the ordinary world.

Everything’s all woo-hoo-normalcy! until a new client walks through his door.  Joanna Barrett is a no-nonsense, type-A, hot momma, and she wastes no time with pleasantries.  Instead, she sits down in a chair, crosses her dashing gams, and announces she needs his help and she needs it now.  As it turns out, Barrett’s teenage daughter has run away again.  Only this time, instead of the usual treks to the big city to get into everyday sorts of trouble, Joanna is convinced she’s managed to get herself into the Nightside — no mean feat, since there isn’t exactly a door.  Not wanting to get sucked back into that place, where Taylor was born and spent most of his life erasing and redrawing the line between good and evil, he first refuses her case.  But Joanna Barrett is a hard woman to say no to, and that’s why Taylor soon finds himself returning to the place of his birth, Barrett right there at his side (refusing, as you’d expect her to, to maintain a safe distance).

All three of the novels in this single volume combine this type of traditional private eye story with the kind of characters and events we’re more used to seeing in stuff like The X-Files.  In other words:  it’s a fairly weird and decently intriguing combination.  Three books in, I do have to report that I don’t find these novels to be terribly well-written.  But they’re steadily improving, and even when they’re a bit on the clunky, juvenile side, they’re still satisfyingly entertaining.   The wife of the friend who loaned them to me recently referred to them as “brain candy,” and, well, yeah, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.  A good choice for those days when you just want to escape into a story without having to fire off too many synapses.

The Nightside series is definitely worth picking up if the combination of Sherlock Holmes and Fox Mulder sounds like an intriguing concept.  Don’t be too put off by the quality of the first two, though — as I said, though Green takes his time finding his stride, once he does, these books turn into a bizarrely engaging kick in the pants.  I’m definitely looking forward to reading more over the next few months.



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