Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review of Sirens by Joseph Knox (2017, Doubleday)

Aidan Waits is a disgraced copper, suspended and unsure if he has a future in the police. His boss though has a possible route back which involves exploiting the situation: Waits can go undercover, trying to enter the inner circle of Zain Carver, a major player in Manchester’s criminal world. A disillusioned, dishonest ex-policeman with a drug and drink problem is liable to drift into Carver’s orbit. The task can double-up with a mission for a government minister whose daughter has become a siren for Carver, a party girl being groomed to collect drug payments. Carver though is no ordinary criminal – he has brains, charm and his own man in the police. And Isabelle Rossiter has no desire to be reunited with her father; in fact, Waits suspects she might have good reason to have run. Carver’s world is no place for a young girl though as women in his harem tend to end up dead. Waits is quickly out of his depth, unable to trust anyone – his boss and fellow police officers, the minister, Carver and his coterie, and himself – and he’s not sure if and whether he wants to survive. Deep-down though he wants justice and he’s prepared to play all sides to try and attain it.

Sirens is a dark, gritty, violent tale of fall and redemption set in Manchester. Aidan Waits has a past he’d sooner forget, bought-up in the care system. He has a future that is seemingly going nowhere having badly messed up his police career. The route to possible salvation is go undercover into the city’s criminal underworld, persuade a government minister’s daughter to return home, and uncover Zain Carver’s man in the police. It’s a suicide mission, but Waits has nothing to lose. A man on the edge – disgraced, disillusioned, dishonest – he’s out of control and reckless. Aiding and avenging Carver’s sirens – Cath, Sarah-Jane and the newest recruit, Isabelle, the politician’s daughter – seems worth the risks. Knox’s tale is a rollercoaster of a read, a dark, chilling thriller that throttles along. Full of twists and turns and tension it catapults the reader through the seedy and violent underbelly of the city, the drug-filled hedonism of the night-life, and the criminal gangs and their rivalry that supply the highs and lows. The sense of place and atmosphere are excellent, as is the characterisation. Waits is the perfect guide to this world, a fallen policeman who fits into the scene but can’t give up the notion of justice, even if it’s his own brand rather than defined by the law. While it could have been a fairly simple plot, Knox layers in multiple threads to produce a small Gordian knot that is slowly unravelled. The result is a compelling, page-turner.

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