Author: Joseph Knox
Series: Aidan Waits, #1
Genre: Crime Fiction
Publication Date: February 20, 2018 (first published January 12, 2017)
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌟 (3.75 stars)
The mission is suicide.
Infiltrating the inner circle of enigmatic criminal Zain Carver is dangerous enough. Pulling it off while also rescuing Isabelle Rossiter, a runaway politician’s daughter, from Zain’s influence? Impossible. That’s why Aidan Waits is the perfect man for the job. Disgraced, emotionally damaged and despised by his superiors. In other words, completely expendable.
But Aidan is a born survivor. And as he works his way deep into Zain’s shadowy world, he finds that nothing is as it seems. Zain is a mesmerizing, Gatsby-esque figure who lures young women into his orbit–women who have a bad habit of turning up dead. But is Zain really responsible? And will Isabelle be next?
Before long, Aidan finds himself in over his head, cut loose by his superiors, and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman.
How can he save the girl if he can’t even save himself?
There should be a word for it. That phantom limb, reaching out from your chest, towards things you’ll never have.
If there’s one word to describe Joseph Knox’s debut novel and the first book in the Aidan Waits series, it’s gritty. Sirens is a dark and compelling tale about the harsh realities of the drug world from the perspective of an undercover detective in far over his head. It’s a tale that will stick with you far beyond the final page.
Knox has a distinctive writing style that’s atmospheric in a completely different way from what I’m used to; in fact, it was off-putting at first. I had a hard time feeling immersed because it felt like I was being kept at arm’s length. But as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that we have the front seat to Aidan Waits’s tunnel vision as he gets tangled deeper and deeper inthe investigation that will make or break his tumultuous career. Everything from Waits’s own stumbles with addiction to the unenviable lives of the siren girls flitting in and out of Zain Carver’s home … it all paints a more vivid and visceral picture than descriptions of scenery ever could.
The characters are also a bit off-putting at first. Some felt near cookie cutter to me, and now I can’t tell you the first thing about many of them beyond the category they fall into: hired muscle, Zain’s sirens, or questionable officers of the law. Nevertheless, distinctions beyond those lines aren’t particularly important for the urban noir world Knox has created. What’s important is that every character has their own flaws and ambitions; no one is perfect, and no one is safe from the chaos and destruction of the local drug gangs. I came to be intrigued by the messy, hard-to-like cast of characters pitted against the backdrop of a bleak and corrupted Manchester. The combination of the two just feels so ominous, a mood that hangs heavy over every page.
I won’t say anything about the plot because it’s an intricate whirlwind that needs to be experienced firsthand to be done justice. But it keeps you guessing until the very end, and it’s so easy to feel like you’re in Aidan’s shoes as he tries to put the pieces together with the solution dangling just out of reach.
Overall, I was surprised to have enjoyed this book. I finished it feeling like it was outside my comfort zone, despite crime fiction being a favorite genre of mine, and feeling like it was missing some of the key elements that usually lead me to love a novel. So I shouldn’t have liked it, and yet, Knox’s writing has such a magnetic pull that I could never walk away, could barely put it down. Sirens is a novel full of sharp edges and dark corners, just as captivating as it is haunting, and I’m glad that I took a chance on Aidan Wait’s dangerous, gritty world.