In Joseph Knox’s gritty, exceptionally-written debut novel, disgraced former Manchester police detective Aidan Waits is hired to go undercover in order to infiltrate a dangerous crime network in hopes of saving a runaway teenage girl who has become a “siren” for a ruthless crime lord named Zain Carver.
Sirens are the girls who are charged with collecting the money after drugs are sold inside various bars and clubs. They’re attractive, sometimes charming, and almost always very young. After losing his job for drug theft and usage, Waits is approached by David Rossiter, an old superior of his, and hired to keep an eye on Rossiter’s daughter, Isabelle. Sadly, the MP’s seventeen-year-old daughter has fallen in with Carver, and Rossiter — besides the obvious reasons a parent wouldn’t want their child mixed up in the drug world — fears for her life. Ten years ago, a former siren was slated to testify against Carver, only to disappear and never resurface.
Waits takes the gig, plunging himself into a world built around his greatest weakness. Akin to asking a diabetic with a sweet tooth to run a candy shop, Waits wrestles with his own demons — ones that he’s succumbed to far too often — as he tries to sidestep his own drug addiction and focus on his mission.
Chosen because he is, in a sense, fully expendable to the police force, the former undercover specialist mixes it up with a number of dangerous characters as Knox’s debut novel unfolds. Carver, the mysterious kingpin who’s built a vast syndicate that rules the underground drug universe, is a strong and interesting antagonist — and Knox’s up-close writing style is perfect for bringing this dark world to life on the page. Readers will no doubt feel, at times, like a part of this universe. . . which is both alluring and troubling, but impossible to turn away from.
After losing his way and his head, Waits does finally decide to try and do some good. However, he eventually realizes two things: Things might not be quite what they seemed at the onset of his mission. . . and he’s definitely in over his head.
Joseph Knox’s strong prose pairs perfectly with the story’s dark plot and content, all of which comes together in a way that’s reminiscent of early works from Don Winslow and Dennis Lehane. He’s not quite on their level yet, but crime fans should take note. . . this debut author is one to watch moving forward.
Author: Joseph Knox
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.