Sirens is the brooding and assured debut from Joseph Knox, the next big name in crime fiction.
Set in a sprawling, twilight northern city, Sirens introduces Aidan Waits, a disgraced young detective caught stealing drugs from evidence and subsequently blackmailed into going undercover. When an MP’s daughter runs away from home, Waits is sent to track her down and finds himself at the centre of a maelstrom of drugs, blackmail and deception.
Uncovering the motives of those involved, he’s thrown forwards through politicians, police and drug lords – towards a conclusion and a truth he really doesn’t want to know.
Like the cover, the story within the pages of Sirens is edgy, realistic and full of dark, descending clouds of corruption, murder, and lies. This is a truly commanding and dynamic work of crime fiction like nothing I’ve read in a very, very long time. The story is told from the perspective of Aidan Waits, a down and out detective who’s managed to get himself into some serious hot water after he’s caught stealing drugs from the evidence locker. To say he’s flawed doesn’t really do him justice because he’s quite aware of the demons that follow him and more often than not he seems to encourage them. I absolutely love the first few sentences of the book which immediately set the tone and show us just a sliver of Aidan’s psyche….
Afterwards I went back on to the night shift. They’d never trust me in the daylight again. I spent my time responding to 4 a.m. emergency calls, walking up and down dead escalators and trying not to think. I’d been good at that once…
Doesn’t that leave you wondering what happened that he’s back on shift night? Why will they never trust him again? Of course, those questions are just a tiny thread of the larger criminal web that Aidan finds himself entangled in. From dirty politicians to corrupt police to warring drug lords, the webs that were spun in this book left me feeling tense and off balance much of the time. I found myself wondering so often who was telling the truth, who could be trusted, was Aidan truly undercover or had the boundaries between his undercover life converged with his real one to become the same? With his continued drug and alcohol use, it was easy to see how Aidan could have crossed the undercover line to the criminal one with no chance of return.
The author does a brilliant job of creating a connection between the reader and Aidan by using flashbacks of Aidan’s childhood…where and how he grew up and what his heart is missing as a result. The social worker in me understood how his childhood had led him to his current dark place in life…the drugs, the alcohol, the dangerous situations that led to violence…but I also wondered if there could be redemption for Aidan in the end.
I’ve digressed a little in this review with my discussion of Aidan because he was one of the strongest protagonists I’ve rooted for in such a long time! I do, however, really want make sure I discuss some of the other amazing parts of this book. The setting of Manchester in the winter and the taut, detailed descriptions of everything from the weather to the club scenes to deserted buildings on the edge of town were written to perfection. I felt like I was there and it often made me feel very anxious and on edge. What’s also at the core of this story is a couple extremely well plotted mysteries that had my head spinning with possibilities. Let me tell you, I in no way had anything figured out and I’m completely happy with that. In the end, I was just holding out hope that Aidan could/would be saved… from corrupt police, psychopathic drug dealers…but most of all from himself.
*Many thanks to Amy at NovelGossip.com for sending me her copy of this gem. You’re the best Amy!!
You can purchase Sirens at Amazon and Book Depository