First of all, thank you to Alison Barrow for sending me the sexiest looking book to land on my doorstep so far this year! I was mesmerised by Sirens, so I couldn’t wait to see what Mr Knox had in store for me with ‘The Smiling Man’.
‘How do you solve the murder of a man who never existed?’
…you get Detective Aidan Waits onto the case, that’s how!
Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city. There they find the body of a man. He is dead. And he is smiling. The tags have been removed from the man’s clothes. His teeth filed down and replaced. Even his fingertips are not his own. Only a patch sewn into the inside of his trousers gives any indication as to who he was, and to the desperate last act of his life… But even as Waits puts together the pieces of this stranger’s life, someone is sifting through the shards of his own. When the mysterious fires, anonymous phone calls and outright threats escalate, he realises that a ghost from his own past haunts his every move. And to discover the smiling man’s identity, he must finally confront his own.
To begin, I felt I was treated to a blindingly powerful prologue which forced my hand to read on. I am a real sucker for Mr Knox’s writing anyway, so after an opener like that, I couldn’t wait to see what grittiness I was in for.
Knox sets each scene perfectly, adapting each character and building on Aidan Waits as a person. He is still the same detective we met in Sirens, but there is something more to him now. I guess what he does for a living can’t be easy, so is he forever changing who he is as a result? He is an incredibly likeable character though, and an unforgettable one at that.
I loved the dipping in and out of sub-plots, the snatches of moments with a young boy nicknamed Wally (short for wallet), who is a modern day “artful dodger”. I was intrigued to know more about him and his connection to the story.
Knox opens plenty of doors which sent ideas flooding to my head as to what course the tale was going to take me on. There are plenty of obstacles along the way which is a must, as I tend to get a tad bored with simple crime, the twistier the better for me.
I love the working relationship Sutty and Waits have together. They bounce ideas off each other like a tennis game. Although what one suggests, the other vetoes sometimes. It works though, and they WILL get to the bottom of any crime together.
The ending… well, I don’t want to talk much about that as I despise spoilers in reviews. But, what I will say, is that it is an ending you won’t forget in a hurry. It is an ending you won’t see coming, but it is definitely a believable one. Mr Knox is a genius at English noir and I already cannot wait to get my hands on book number 3.
‘The Smiling Man’ is available to buy from 8th March and I already predict that it will be pride of place in the window of my local Waterstones come that day.