Sirens | Literary Noir at its best.
Sirens by Joseph Knox is a wonder, finely created and highly satisfying.
Hard-boiled police detective Aiden Waits takes the archetype to new lows by unapologetically revealing his many self-destructive flaws which include booze, drugs, femmes fatales, and a propensity for violence. The first-person point of view drills into his cynical psyche with such depth, clarity, and devastating honesty that readers may find themselves identifying with Waits, being Waits.
Whispers from his past and hints at lingering guilt may be the keys to understanding Waits, his drives, his motives, his morals. Orphaned as a child, he made a loving sacrifice that haunts him, hinting that the motive behind his urge to save “fallen women” may be an unconscious quest for redemption.
As a police officer, Waits worked the night shift. Mixing with the denizens of darkness on a regular basis over many years might very well cause a blurring of boundaries, a desensitization to unhealthy behavior, which in this case, makes Waits the perfect person to delve into the night on a secret, treacherous task from which he may never return.
When Waites lets his unbending code of justice force him to remove evidence from police custody, he is caught. With the threat of serious punitive action directed against him, he is forced to consider a dangerous undercover operation. He accepts the task and dives into a universe of violence and corruption.
Waits must rescue Isabelle Rossiter, daughter of a high-placed politician. She has run away from home and is consorting with a powerful drug lord, Zain Carver. Waits manages to worm his way into Carver’s orbit.
Knox creates a dark, perverse world cursed with the ubiquitous elements that drag down the weak and unfortunate in every citiy, in every country. The story takes place in Manchester, England, but the author leaves out just enough detail to make the readers believe that the story might take place in their very own city.
The plot is an original, complex maze of twists and turns, a landmine, confounded with clues, deceptions, and red herrings that compete to prevent Waits from completing his mission. It moves forward relentlessly, and near the end, Knox jacks it up to a break-neck speed. True to the nature of the genre, characters are murdered, poisoned, or disappear. However, Waits persists. He takes beatings, breaks bones, gets dragged to interrogation in handcuffs. However, he persists. He’s on a mission, and he would rather die than deny his code of ethics or delete his sense of humor.
The characters are real, gritty, vicious, secretive, deceptive, and just what it takes to populate the dangerous side of town. They are clearly drawn and true to their station in life. The police are no better. They are just as corrupt as the drug dealers.
Perhaps the most notable element of Sirens is the author’s masterful use of language, his delicious prose, exquisite detail. He is all show and no tell. His brilliant use of metaphors and his sensitive depictions of the sad lives of people who have lost their way, seduced by addiction, money, and sin.
It is obvious that Knox took great time and care when writing this marvelous novel. It’s the only way to create perfection.
Take a tour of the wild side and experience the dark underbelly of the city. Let Waits be your eyes and ears. You will not be sorry.
Readers will no doubt lust after a sequel in hopes of seeing Waits face his own demons and come to terms with his past.
Sirens is a highly recommended read.