Author: Joseph Knox
Publisher: Black Swan
Release Date: January 2017
After a potentially career-ending mistake, nihilistic Manchester cop Aidan Waits finds himself pressurised into participating in a murky undercover investigation on behalf of shadowy politician David Rossiter – a man whose teenage daughter, Isabelle, has shacked up with charismatic local drug-lord Zain Carver. His superiors are unconcerned about his slim prospects of survival, and Waits finds himself plunged into a hellish limbo populated by warring dealers, alluring bar girls and ruined corpses. Can he keep it together long enough to untangle the labyrinthine mystery, or is he destined to die face down in a Manchester gutter?
Manchester always feels like an underexplored noir backdrop, and Joseph Knox comprehensively redresses the balance with this rain-slick, booze-sodden, smack-ravaged depiction of a city overflowing with dark secrets. Aidan Waits isn’t a dirty cop, but he is definitely a figure tainted with the bad decisions of his past. In Sirens he finds himself mired in a dubious off-the-books investigation, where the only way to gain credibility is to play up to his tarnished reputation.
Knox’s book is seemingly more influenced by the murkier strands of US crime fiction than by the kind of standard-issue UK police procedurals that he is now sharing shelf-space with, and Sirens is an arresting debut novel that immediately marks him out as an author to watch. The tone is as bleak and brooding as the Joy Division albums that provide the book’s unofficial soundtrack, and the fully fleshed-out world that Waits inhabits is set up nicely for a series of smart, urban thrillers. Terrific stuff.