Biting gallows humor and backstabbing deeds. Confidence men, prostitutes, and misanthropic cops who are addicted to the beat, and for some, to the drugs they’re supposed to keep off the street. Aiden Waits is a detective inspector in Manchester, UK, who has been relegated to the night shift because of past sins and thrown-upon political maneuvers. Joseph Knox’s character is akin to the dens of vice that only operate in the dead of night, and The Smiling Man is the perfect vehicle for readers to learn more about his checkered past.
Three cases vie for Waits and his immediate superior/ sometimes partner’s attention during the course of the novel: A sexual bribery case at the local university. Multiple fires set in trash bins throughout the city. An anonymous man found dead in a vacant hotel. Waits and his malcontent partner set out to untangle these barbed wire knots, and maybe get some semblance of stability back in their careers.
There are so many strengths to Knox’s second Waits novel. First and foremost is the outstanding original voice of his main character. While every cop in the novel shares a grimly sardonic view of humanity, Waits fights the tide of the force and can be optimistically sarcastic and almost sanguine, yet most of the time, for the reader’s amusement, only in his own head. Knox’s has quips and one-liners on practically every page that are equally sick and hilarious. The back and forth between the partners and the witnesses is great, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a better bad cop/ bad cop routine.
Joseph Knox’s The Smiling Man has an ending that I guarantee you will not guess, and several memorable twists along the way. I particularly liked that Knox revealed much about Waits’s background; I’ve read so many series in which the author pulls his or her readers along for endless pages without fleshing out the main character at all. That isn’t to say we’ve learned all there is about Aiden. I recommend this book to those of you ready to walk into the depths of the Manchester criminal element.
5 out of 5 stars.
Note: Unfortunately, this book will not be released in the US until next January (18). While you’re waiting, pick up Knox’s first Aiden Waits book, Sirens.
Thank you to NetGalley, Crown Publishing, and Joseph Knox for the advanced copy for review.