I love a title with a dual meaning, me. I mean you get the obvious meaning here - warning, emergency vehicle, police, kinda siren and then you get the more literary, metaphorical meaning - the Sirens from Greek mythology, dangerous, luring men to their death by their bewitching singing. And it’s left to the reader which one they wanna go with. I know which one it is for me. This book was published in 2017, a debut novel, apparently. There’s debuts and there’s debuts though and this is one hell of a debut.
But in 2020 let’s create a little context here. I dabble on social media pretty unskilfully and pretty inconsistently. But I chanced upon a tweet in mid January from Joseph Knox celebrating three years as a published author and offering to give books away to readers old and new. I am both, ;) I am old but I am a new reader. In return - a review, reader, that’s what I do! I responded to the tweet and less than ten days later I had not one but two beautiful hardback books personally signed by the author. There’s nothing like a signed book to endear me before I’ve even begun to read it! This is a US first edition!
But due to a plethora of deadlines and commitments I’ve only just read Sirens. What a joy though! Tough, gritty, uncompromising, urban noir. Set in Manchester you can hear the Mancunian accents in many of the characters. The personnel are varied and there’s little in the way of stereotyping. Our main man is Aidan Watts, disgraced detective, flawed, so you already like him! Up against it. It’s a contemporary crime tale but it reads like the black and white B movies of the past with a soundtrack by Joy Division. (Checkout the section headings!) It’s drugs and gangland, it’s politics and corruption. It’s them and us.
It’s so well plotted, tight and thorough with an accomplished prose style to match. Descriptions of both people and places are salient and palpable. The mood of unease, restrained aggression and the sensation that there’s an eruption about to take place pervades every page.And every so often an eruption does take place. For a debut novel it’s as an assured a piece of writing as I’ve come across. The depth and flow are impressive. The story is complex and the reader had best pay attention to the many who, when, where’s and whys. Not everyone is who they seem.
The focus is on Aidan, and my delighted understanding is that this is the first in a series. Well I know it is because I also have a copy of The Smiling Man! I don’t think it will be long before I acquire a copy of the third book, The Sleepwalker! Aidan gives a depth to the book and I imagine the series because his story offers an extra layer to ‘just’ a crime story. He has a past that smacks of unhappiness, a suggestion that he is in part detached from those around him. Yet he’s a paradox, because he cares. Right matters to him. But he’s no angel. He’s very real. But it’s as if he is wary of anyone getting to know him, getting too close? Another reason I’m keen to start book number 2.
Right that’s enough. I could continue but I’m wasting valuable time that you could better spend seeking out this book and reading it. If you’re a fan of contemporary crime I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
My thanks to Joseph for sending me this book and signing it. I love it!