Fresh Blood

Name: Joseph Knox

Title of Book: Sirens

'...a debut novel that deserves to be lauded the length and breadth of the country. '

It starts with the girl. How it ends is up to DC Aidan Waits.

Isabelle Rossiter has run away again. When Aidan Waits, a troubled junior detective, is summoned to her father’s penthouse home – he finds a manipulative man, with powerful friends.

But retracing Isabelle’s steps through a dark, nocturnal world, Waits finds something else: an intelligent seventeen-year-old girl who’s scared to death of something. As he investigates her story, and the unsolved disappearance of a young woman just like her, he realizes Isabelle was right to run away.

Soon Waits is cut loose by his superiors, stalked by an unseen killer and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman. He’s out of his depth and out of time. How can he save the girl, when he can't even save himself?

I have read many debut novels over the years but I've never read one as accomplished as Knox’s, ‘Sirens’.

Written in the first person with a style all his own, Knox has created a novel that harks back to a time of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. For fans of gripping urban noir with a nod to the golden age of crime fiction, this is the novel for you.

The first in a new series, ‘Sirens’ introduces us to Aidan Waits, a detective in Manchester, tricked to work underground when he steals drugs from evidence. What follows is a page-turning thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Knox's prose will draw you into his dark and dangerous world of a corrupt Manchester. You can almost feel the tension as you turn the page. You don't read about Aidan Waits, you become Aidan Waits.

If Sirens doesn't win awards or go to the top of the best sellers lists there is something very wrong. This is a treat of a debut novel that deserves to be lauded the length and breadth of the country. I am an instant fan. Joseph Knox is a talent as ‘Sirens’ is a classic.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) D.C. Waits appears a loner and an anti-hero. How do you see him?
Aidan’s a young man who has become lost in the world in many ways – and I’ve had a lot of readers get in touch to ask how I could be so cruel to him. The truth is, I’d often pick up crime novels, mid-series, and be blown away by their worldly, wise protagonists. Then I’d go back to book one, keen to find the origins, keen to see how they became that person. Nine times out of ten I’d find out they just, sort of, always were that person. In ‘Sirens’ I wanted to take a risk and present my main character as someone who’s only just beginning to learn what kind of man he might be. He’s pulling in two very different directions and the book represents a brutal crossroads for him, with no going back. It has a lot in common with a coming of age novel in that sense, and I’m glad of it as it means Aidan will actually develop and change throughout the series rather than remain in stasis.
2) You paint a dark and vivid Manchester in ‘Sirens’. How important is location for you?
Location is less important to me than atmosphere. There’s a very big difference between reeling off some landmarks and getting the ‘feel’ of a place. Manchester was perfect for me as I’d spent so much time wandering the streets at night getting into trouble. It’s also a strikingly beautiful, strikingly tough and strikingly artistic city. I love and fear it in about equal measure.
3) Why did you decide to write in the first person?
Mainly for the intensity. The first crime fiction I ever really fell in love with was that of Raymond Chandler. I swallowed his novels whole. Literally read them all back-to-back and then started again. I found an enormous part of the appeal was being in Marlowe’s head. Seeing what he saw, thinking what he thought. I also loved the fact of what wasn’t said. There were holes in his life – friends, family, relationships – that spoke volumes. Aidan’s similar in some ways, and I loved hinting at who or what has made him into the man he is.
4) There are strong elements of Dashiell Hammett in ‘Sirens’. Was that deliberate and are you a fan of Noir fiction?
I’m a huge fan of noir. I’ve heard it described as beautiful doom and that’s definitely what I was going for. As much as I love Chandler, I often tire of writers who try to imitate Marlowe’s one-liners. I guess if you strip them out, you have something closer to Hammett or, even better, closer to my all-time favourite, Ross MacDonald. He had the intensity of Hammett, the romance of Chandler and a depth all of his own.
5) What research did you have to do for the story?
The main research was to live in Manchester for seven years; be poor, drunk and in love. I stayed up late and did a lot of walking. I worked in bars and met weird people on the fringes, or lowest rungs, of the criminal world. I walked home at 3, 4, 5 in the morning. I lived in bad places all over the city, above and below junkies. And I read everything I could get my hands on.
6) You worked as a buyer for Waterstones while writing ‘Sirens’. How long did it take you to write?
Some things I was working on as far back as 8 years ago made it into ‘Sirens’. That’s mainly because of some unique, scary situations I found myself in – and I knew they could take the novel to a different level. I was also determined to get the voice, the atmosphere, the feel right. Due to this, I rewrote the first quarter of the book for several years until it sounded right. Once those things had clicked into place it came much quicker, and the majority of the book was written in two years.
7) Any hints for book two and the future for D.C. Waits?
Book two is called ‘The Smiling Man’. It’s based on a real, terrifying and unsolved murder. The weirdest and most fascinating one I’ve come across, yet strangely there doesn’t seem to be much written about it. I’ve transplanted the action to Manchester and had Aidan, who’s been consigned to the nightshift, stumble into it...
8) Are you a fan of crime fiction? If so, what are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you and you would wish to have on a deserted island?
Oof. I love crime fiction, fiction, non-fiction. I read as much as possible, and never less than a book a week. I present this top three on the understanding that it changes regularly!

The Long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler

The Last Good Kiss – James Crumley

In a Lonely Place – Dorothy B Hughes