The Smiling Man
by Joseph Knox
‘I usually experienced the presence of a dead body as an absence, but in this case, it felt like a black hole opening up in front of me’
Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city. There they find the body of a man. He is dead. And he is smiling.
I adored Sirens, Joseph Knox first novel which introduced us to Detective Aidan Waits. It was my top crime novel for many a year. The concern was, could he keep up to that level of writing with his next book, The Smiling Man. Well he hasn’t kept up. What he has done, is surpass it, by a long way.
It is simply brilliant.
We are back in the dark heart of Manchester and Detective Aidan Waits whose prestige has sunk so low, he is consigned to the nightshift. He is investigating random bin fires with his colleague, the morose (but hygenic), Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe.
When they are called to the Palace, a large recently closed hotel in the city centre they find a dead man in one of the rooms: a smiling dead man. With no means of identifying the man they set off on an investigation that leads to more death, two estranged owners of the hotel and lots of trouble for Aidan waits.
Alongside this investigation another harrowing tale is unfolding. And with a deft brush, Joseph Knox paints the two stories perfectly, allowing them to come together seamlessly.
There is so much to laud about this book. One of the great things is the characterisation. Aidan is a much more rounded character as we find out a lot of his backstory and his motivations. The rest of the characters are just as good, and a special mention should go to Manchester, a character in itself. Joseph Knox brings to life the tense, seething underbelly of the city masterfully.
The book is driven along at a great pace with scintillating prose,crackling dialogue and a tense plot. my only disappointment was finishing the book: I now have a long wait until the next one.
If you haven’t met Aidan Waits yet, don’t leave it any longer: start at Sirens, you won’t be sorry.
Highly recommended, an incredible read.