The Last Nightingale
Think film noir with a twist of Stephen King and you have Anthony Flacco’s tale of a twelve-year-old boy’s hellish survival of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Shane Nightingale struggles through the nightmare of surviving alone after his world is literally destroyed. Drifting through the chaos of shattered buildings, dust, fog, and the smoke of spreading fire, he finds shelter and a job of sorts in the cemetery of the Mission Dolores—an apt reflection of the story’s tone.
But surviving the earthquake is not what makes this dark story a thriller. It was not the natural disaster that killed Shane’s family but a crazed psychopath, a serial killer who now stalks Shane to complete his obliteration of the Nightingale family. Police are already hunting the killer. Sergeant Randall Blackburn leads the investigation. Blackburn’s path crosses Shane’s when Shane, having read about a society murder in the newspaper, gives Blackburn the insight he needs to break the case. Blackburn takes Shane under his wing and moves into a deadly chess game with the killer. It ends in the shadow of Golden Gate Bridge, in the dead of night, to the sound of crashing waves and howling winds.
Great disasters bring out the best and the worst in humankind. This is an underlying theme of the story but aside from Randall Blackburn there is little representation of the “best.” There may be too much “Little Nell” drama for the taste of some, and the ending is hopelessly clichéd. Still, the story is well written and fast paced. It holds the reader’s interest to the end. Recommended for a realistic look at the aftermath of natural disaster and the sorry side of human nature.