Sirens, by Joseph Knox, is a hard hitting crime fiction novel set in the underbelly of Manchester. Its protagonist, Aiden Waits, is a disgraced detective working covertly in an attempt to keep his job and stay out of jail. He is required to infiltrate the inner circle of a drugs baron. He has a weakness for the product.
Written in the first person the story opens with Waits working a standard night shift and realising it is a year since he got caught up in the events which make up this tale. He had been drinking in the city bars and clubs, observing activity linked to the supply of drugs. He recalls what happened next, his account tinged with regret.
Waits is asked to keep an eye out for Isabelle Rossiter, the seventeen year old runaway daughter of a wealthy politician. She has been linked to Zain Carver, a crime lord famed for the parties he holds in his home. She is mixing with the girls he uses in his business. Sometimes they disappear.
Waits is aware that there is more going on than he is being told, and that he is playing a dangerous game. He gains access to Carver and sets out to earn his trust, a transient concept in this line of work. Waits is attempting to set up a sting operation but to do so must get involved with Carver’s shady operations. When a brick of heroin goes missing events turn personal. The lies he is telling both sides catch up with him and Waits’ enemies close in.
The demand for drugs exists in all strata of society, from the hobos in the abandoned warehouses through the wide variety of pubs and clubs to the thrill seeking party goers in the mansions owned by the conspicuously wealthy. With so much money to be made the power of a drugs lord relies on product veracity and fear of retribution. Carver’s empire finds itself under threat.
The writing is dark and tense, the death toll high. The troubled Waits fits right into the world created. This is a powerful and compelling slice of noir presented in an accomplished narrative, impressive in a debut. A recommended read for all fans of crime fiction. The author is undoubtedly one to watch.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Doubleday.