I’d not come across this author, by Joseph Knox, before however I quickly found his first book Sirens had collected some very good reviews. The Smiling Man follows on from the first book although I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything but not having read it (but I have a copy now). Due to past misdemeanours DC Aidan Waits is put on a permanent night shift with DI “Sutty” Sutcliffe. I quickly realised that they were the perfect crime fighting duo – one untrusted and one appalling! They are left to investigate a series of fires in dustbins. More by accident they are called to what turns out to be a real crime scene. A deserted hotel appears to have been broken into. They find an injured security guard and a dead – smiling – man.
This is a very twisty and twisted investigation and story. Most of the time nothing is quite what it seems. Gradually things come together during the course of this deeply dark story. Aidan – an excellent character – has to come to terms with demons of his own as well as the investigation. Sutty is simply Sutty – not really come across a character quite like him before but he works very well indeed. In addition to these two this book contains a character so deeply nasty; I don’t recall reading one quite like this before. There’s violence here too and it is nasty sometimes in case that bothers you.
I was immediately caught up in this story and found it very hard to put down. The Manchester setting is good and well used. The main characters were very good indeed – vivid and well developed. In particular the deep deep darkness in Aidan Waits is very effective in my mind. Rereading my notes that I took while reading this the word that keeps cropping up is “dark” and the book certainly is that. However I like some good dark fiction. A couple of my favourites authors are Jo Nesbo and Tim Weaver – they both write dark and write it well. Joseph Knox’s writing is up there with them as far as I’m concerned. This is actually quite a simply story – it is very well told however. I’ll read the earlier book as soon as I can and I’ll be at the front of the queue for the next one. One of the “books of the year” without question.
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review