cover image The Smiling Man

The Smiling Man

Joseph Knox. Crown, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-85752-440-9

British author Knox’s fine sequel to 2018’s Sirens finds Det. Aidan Watts—“an incompetent officer with a substance abuse problem and too much baggage to work cases,” according to one police colleague—on night duty in the city of Manchester. “I was on my 120th night shift in a row. Six months into what felt like a life sentence.” With his acerbic, venomous partner, Det. Insp. Peter Sutcliffe, Watts responds to an intruder alarm at the disused Palace Hotel, where they discover a dead body, its facial muscles “locked into a wide, wincing grin.” The complex narrative proceeds on several tracks, centering on the detectives’ efforts to identity the smiling man and his killer. Vivid, visceral flashbacks reveal a series of other violent crimes. Knox’s nightmarish prose compels, but readers will struggle to assemble the pieces of this intricate puzzle with its substantial cast. This ambitious book will appeal to those who like particularly grim story lines and deeply flawed protagonists. [em]Agent: Agents: Dan Lazar, Writers House. (Jan.) [/em]