Sirens

SirensSirens by Joseph Knox
Series: Aidan Waits Thriller #1
Publisher: Doubleday
Released: January 12, 2017
Pages: 384
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The breathtakingly propulsive and stunningly assured debut thriller, perfect for readers of Tana French, Don Winslow, and Dennis Lehane

The mission is suicide.

Infiltrating the inner circle of enigmatic criminal Zain Carver is dangerous enough. Pulling it off while also rescuing Isabelle Rossiter, a runaway politician's daughter, from Zain's influence? Impossible. That's why Aidan Waits is the perfect man for the job. Disgraced, emotionally damaged and despised by his superiors. In other words, completely expendable.

But Aidan is a born survivor. And as he works his way deep into Zain's shadowy world, he finds that nothing is as it seems. Zain is a mesmerizing, Gatsby-esque figure who lures young women into his orbit--women who have a bad habit of turning up dead. But is Zain really responsible? And will Isabelle be next?

Before long, Aidan finds himself in over his head, cut loose by his superiors, and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman.

How can he save the girl if he can't even save himself?

If someone were to ask me what I think of Noir as a genre I’d quickly say “I really like it!”, followed by half an hour of thinking “Wait… have I actually read any proper noir recently?”

Other than The Killer Inside Me, of which I have very fond memories, I’m really not sure whether I have. So when I was looking for a book to read, turned on the radio, and heard Sirens recommended as an excellent noir-story I took the opportunity to give this book a go. And, as far as gritty, dark, hard-boiled stories go, it more than holds its own.

Sirens, quite literally, doesn’t pull any punches. We’re dropped into the middle of the life of Aidan Waits, a (surprise, surprise) tough-as-nails rough-around-the-edges police officer with a drinking problem, a drug-habit, and a bleak history. He gets tangled up in some business which drags him into even darker corners of the dark world he has become used to inhabiting. It becomes violent and bloody… and then even more violent… and even bloodier. It pushes your face down into the mud, and just keeps on grinding it down.

I enjoyed the story a lot, even though it felt almost like a style-parody of the genre. It’s perfectly possible that pulling out all of the tropes is a staple of the genre, I honestly don’t know, but at several points I felt myself thinking that, yes, of course this kind of thing would happen in this kind of story. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story itself, but it did sometimes drag me out of my immersion in the book, causing me to think of it on a meta-level rather than just enjoying it. And I think a lot of the strength of this book is in the atmosphere is creates. I can see how this is the kind of book where you’d be completely engrossed from start to finish. Unfortunately I wasn’t. In hindsight I wish I had planned to read this in a sitting or two, rather than in 20-minute increments, to allow myself to be properly immersed in the action. That said, there are other books that have had no problems re-immersing me in themselves within seconds of starting a 20-minute stint, so some of the blame might be on the book rather than on me.

And while the story is good, the world it happened in felt small. Sure, the story took place in Manchester, but the camera is never pulled far enough back from the events of the story that I got the feeling of these being events taking place in a large city. Instead it felt that all the characters and places (and there are a fair few) existed inside of quite a small, crowded, bubble.

All in all, even though I wish I’d had enjoyed it a little more, this was a very worthwhile read. I’ll definitely pick up the sequel, and it has definitely sparked life in my dormant urge to try out more noir in general.

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