Thursday, 26 August 2021

The Smiling Man - Joseph Knox


OK, I was ambivalent about Knox's debut, Sirens, but I was interested enough to read this, the second Aidan Waits novel.  No reservations now - Knox is up there with the best of his generation of British crime writers.  This is a proper novel, properly original, with the full novelistic strata of interlinked storylines - plus our first real insight into our hero's pitch-black backstory.

Waits is on permanent night duty, paired with the equally toxic DS Peter Sutcliffe, who lives up to his name.  They are investigating the arson of various litter bins when the call comes in from the closed pending sale luxury Palace hotel.  There's a man in room 413.  He's smiling.  He's dead.  The only real clue to his identity is an inscribed copy of the Rubiyat of Omar Khyam.  Waits traces this to a nurse called Amy.  They bring her in to identify the body.  She doesn't need to see his face.  There is obviously one foot too many for it to be her former lover.

Then there's the case of Cherry the streetwalker, whose body is fished out of the canal.  Only Cherry is really Christopher.  The whole plot unravels along these eccentric lines.  Ir's just brilliant.

I was going to end with "I can't wait for the next Waits novel,' but it turns out I can.  Knox's next book is a true crime story, set in Manchester., and called, fittingly, True Crime Story.  That is what I want to read asap.

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