by G. Robert Frazier
Debut novelist Joseph Knox has crafted a bleak and gritty crime thriller with Sirens ($27, Crown), perfect for fans of Mike Hammer and other pulp-era detectives. All the elements are in place: a disgruntled, disgraced police detective, seedy bars, sexy women, ruthless thugs, corrupt cops, and treachery at every turn. Pity hero Aidan Waits, who has to run the gauntlet in his pursuit of justice and, above all, his own redemption.
An addict himself, Waits is thrust into the novel’s bleak underworld when he is forced to penetrate drug lord Zain Carver’s criminal empire and root out the bad seeds. Complicating matters is an extracurricular assignment, arranged in cooperation with his police superiors, to keep an eye on Isabelle Rossiter, the runaway daughter of a deep-pocketed local politician.
When Isabelle overdoses on a bad batch of Eight, the stakes, and the tension, multiplies as Waits must work with Carver to get the rest of the tainted drugs off the street and find out who wanted Isabelle dead.
That’s enough to make Sirens intriguing and compulsively readable in itself, but Knox makes sure to add an emotional layer to events that actually make you care about Waits and his misfit cast. The action may be sparse, but the writing here is atmospheric, moody, and moving, setting the novel apart on an ever-crowded bookshelf. Knox is a name to watch.
Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.