Book Review: The Knock-Knock Man

knock knock man

The Knock-Knock Man, by Russell Mardell, was my recent holiday read and proved a good choice for this setting. It is a crime thriller of sorts but also a ghost story. The protagonist is Ali Davenport, a young woman who joined the police – as her father had done – because she wanted to be one of the good guys. When the story opens she is living in squalor in London, self-medicating with alcohol as she tries to come to terms with her resignation from the force. This followed her role in an horrific incident that led to multiple deaths. Her memories from that night remain somewhat hazy, not least because they culminated in a sighting with no obvious logical basis.

Ali is fierce and somewhat impetuous. She was good friends with her former partner, Ernie, who died recently from supposed suicide. When she is contacted by their former superior, DC Frank Gage, she agrees to return to the sleepy town of New Salstone in Wiltshire to help him quash rumours of a supernatural being that Ernie’s wife, Maggie, is blaming for her husband’s death.

Alongside these characters there are: ghost hunters; a ruthless businessman; the wealthy family who, for generations, lived on a nearby country estate. There are rumours of a secret society, of satanic practices, and of a ghost that knocks on the windows of those who become its victims. Ali does not believe in ghosts. She remains determined to uncover what the moon faced creature some claim to have seen is.

The author weaves all this together by putting Ali in the building where Ernie worked as a security guard, and where he died. There are throwbacks to Ali’s childhood, and to the deadly incident that destroyed her hopes for a career with the police. As the death toll continues to mount she worries that she might unwittingly be a catalyst.

Gage is under pressure to get Maggie to stop causing trouble for a local businessman. Ali seeks the truth for Ernie, but finding it proves dangerous.

The writing is taut and engaging, the supernatural elements retaining sufficient questions to remain realistic. Threads are developed to explain where behaviours originated. Ali may be a bit of a mess, and surprisingly able to function with painful injuries, but her determination to follow through what her partner started makes her worth rooting for.

I mentioned that this made a good holiday read. It is a page-turner with a plot memorable enough throughout to put down and pick up without losing momentum. I did stay up later than planned on my last night as I needed to know how it ended. Pleasingly, while tense and dramatic, this did not rely on any sudden diversions from previous character development.

A well told story that should make readers think about the whats and whys of whatever they may find spooks them. A tale of trauma and coping mechanisms, of the ghosts that linger from childhood and are not always benign.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, RedDoor Press.