The Smiling Man
by Joseph Knox
Double Day Books
Publication Date : March 8, 2018
Pages : 416
One of the many things I enjoy about reading is the discovery of a new author. Reading a fresh new voice of crime fiction with new perspectives breathes life into a genre that can sometimes seem repetitive. After reading Sirens (book one in the Aidan Waits series), Joseph Knox became of my favorite authors and his lead character, Aidan Waits became a character who will remain in my mind long after reading The Smiling Man.
In The Smiling Man we catch up with Detective Constable Aidan Waits soon after the events of Sirens. Aidan is now working the night shift alongside his partner and superior officer, Detective Inspector Peter Sutcliffe. Aidan and Peter are called out to investigate a break in at the grand yet vacant Palace Hotel. While searching the hotel Aidan and Peter find a dead body. A police officer finding a dead body is not unusual, but the body Aidan and Peter discover is unlike anything they have seen before. The face of the dead body is smiling, the body has also been stripped of anything that could lead to an identification. Aidan begins this complex and layered investigation with his own demons and personal issues quickly bearing down on him.
The Smiling Man is a work of crime fiction/police procedural but one story line in particular reads like a horror story. The scenes featuring a character named Wally are chilling and scary. Wally is a nine year old boy forced to help commit robberies and home invasions. These scenes left me with chills. Wally's story is not filled with graphic violence or gory details, however the lack of blatant violence somehow makes Wally’s story that much more chilling.
Aidan is the classic tortured and troubled detective. However there is one significant difference. With most tales of tortured detectives, they have at least one ally ; Aidan is alone. Following the events of Sirens, Aidan finds himself an outcast among his fellow officers. He is mocked, belittled, and sometimes ignored. Many times I found myself feeling sorry for Aidan. Knox does an excellent job expressing the isolation and loneliness surrounding Aidan. There are times I could tell that Aidan was longing to reach out to someone, but was rejected or could not allow himself to let down his guard.
Although I felt bad for Aidan at times, I could not ignore his recklessness. He makes bad decisions with little regard for his safety. This is a quality usually required to be a police officer but Aidan has managed to take this quality to the extreme. Aidan has managed to take this admirable quality and made it into a flaw which usually lands him in trouble and in conflict with his superiors.
Readers looking for a story with a happy ending will not find it in the The Smiling Man, but this is what I love about the Aidan Waits series. The stories are dark and gritty with a protagonist who will frustrate readers with his recklessness but they will still cheer him on. I enjoyed The Smiling Man and eagerly await book three.
** Thanks to Transworld Books for my free copy of The Smiling Man**
Murder and Moore Rating:
5 out of 5 Stars