Cover image for The smiling man
Title:
The smiling man
ISBN:
9781524763190
Personal Author:
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
389 pages ; 25 cm.
Summary:
Aidan Waits is back on the night shift, the Manchester PD dumping ground for those too screwed-up for more glamorous work. But the monotony of petty crimes and lonesome nights is shattered when he and his partner are called to investigate a break-in at The Palace, an immense, empty hotel in the center of the city. There they find the body of a man. He is dead. The tags have been cut from his clothes, his teeth have been filed down, and even his fingertips have been replaced... And he is smiling. But as Waits begins to unravel the mystery of the smiling man, he becomes a target. Someone wants very badly to make this case disappear, and as their threats escalate, Aidan realizes that the answers may lie not only with the wealthy families and organized criminals connected to the Palace, but with a far greater evil from his own past. To discover the smiling man's identity, he must finally confront his own.
Series Title:
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Book Fiction Knox
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Book Fiction Knox
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Book Fiction Knox
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Summary

Summary

From the acclaimed author of Sirens , damaged Detective Aidan Waits returns in a mind-bending new thriller that will have everyone asking "Who is the Smiling Man?"

Aidan Waits is back on the night shift, the Manchester PD dumping ground for those too screwed-up for more glamorous work. But the monotony of petty crimes and lonesome nights is shattered when he and his partner are called to investigate a break-in The Palace, an immense, empty hotel in the center of the city.

There they find the body of a man. He is dead. The tags have been cut from his clothes, his teeth have been filed down, and even his fingertips have been replaced...
And he is smiling.

But as Waits begins to unravel the mystery of the smiling man, he becomes a target. Someone wants very badly to make this case disappear, and as their threats escalate, Aidan realizes that the answers may lie not only with the wealthy families and organized criminals connected to the Palace, but with a far greater evil from his own past.

To discover the smiling man's identity, he must finally confront his own.


Author Notes

JOSEPH KNOX was born and raised in and around Stoke and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes, and reads compulsively. The Smiling Man is the follow-up to his acclaimed and bestselling debut, Sirens .


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. Agent: Agents: Dan Lazar, Writers House. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Detective Aidan Waits' meth habit, propensity for violence, and general disregard for authority have eclipsed his recent implosion of a Manchester drug organization (in Sirens, 2018), and he's been exiled to the night shift, where he and his barely tolerable partner, Sully, can't muster much enthusiasm for investigating a series of trash-can fires. That changes when a routine alarm check at a shuttered luxury hotel leads to the discovery of a man's body. Aidan and Sully have found a solid mystery: the dead man has taken unusual steps to hide his identity by having his fingertips and teeth surgically altered. Aidan's focus on diving into the secrets of feuding hotel owners, Manchester prostitutes, and the intentionally disappeared is compromised, however, by the fact that his vicious stepfather has hunted him down, determined to settle old scores. The interspersed narrative of a terrified young boy forced to assist his stepfather's violent crimes offers insight into a past that could breed Aidan's brand of determined self-destructiveness. Another gripping, darkly poetic entry in a series worthy of comparison to Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor novels.--Christine Tran Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE IS a genre that needs to be handled with kid gloves. Too much reality - or too much foolishness - and the pact made with the reader to believe in the unbelievable is broken. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen seem to have mastered the formula in AN ANONYMOUS GIRL (St. Martin's, $27.99), a creepy-crawly tale about putting your trust in a stranger; specifically, in a strange psychologist. Jessica Farris, a young theatrical makeup artist living on peanuts, sneaks into a high-paying "morality and ethics research project" being conducted by Lydia Shields, a psychology professor at New York University. Anticipating a formal printed questionnaire, Jessica is disconcerted to be bombarded with highly personal questions. "Subject 52, you need to dig deeper," she's prompted by the dauntingly elegant Dr. Shields, who knows Jessica is an impostor, but finds her interesting. And dig she does, revealing herself so completely that Dr. Shields focuses exclusively on her. Although this will no doubt set off alarms for discerning readers, Jessica seems oblivious to the unlikelihood of such a setup. And indeed, it turns out that Dr. Shields is really looking for an attractive (and rather dumb) young woman to test her husband's fidelity. Given the rather far-fetched premise of this tale of mutual sexual obsession, the authors do a neat job of ratcheting up the suspense when Jessica begins going out on assignments to pick up married men in bars. And it comes uncomfortably close to being a justifiable betrayal when Dr. Shields's husband has an affair with Jessica, confirming his wife's previously unfounded hypothesis that he's "an unrepentant adulterer." At least he has the discretion to warn his lover about his wife. "She's dangerous," he says. "Watch yourself." But it's the danger that makes infidelity such fun, and the authors know exactly how to play on their characters' love of danger to bring them to the brink of disaster - and dare them to jump off. you could choke on the bonedry atmosphere of SCRUBLANDS (Atria, $26.99), Chris Hammer's gritty debut novel about a sex scandal that has left a small Australian desert town reeling. A year has passed since a church shooting torched the parched landscape of Riversend, where everyone talks about the punishing weather but few have the stamina to take it without boiling over into rage or despair. The chary locals are less forthcoming about the lingering horror of the mass shooting in which a young priest took the lives of five members of his elderly congregation. A journalist named Martin Scarsden has been assigned by his editor at The Sydney Morning Herald to write a feature about how the town is coping with the trauma, only to be told by Mandalay Blonde, the owner of a bookstore, that the real story is why the priest carried out the killings in the first place. And while he's at it, why not find out if the accepted motive of pedophilia holds up. Taking up the challenge, Scarsden delves into the history of this cursed town and its haunted inhabitants, emerging with a sensitively rendered back story about people who have willfully blinded themselves by staring into the sun too long. the only thing sadder than a majestic hotel fallen on hard times is one with a dead body in Room 413. Detective Aidán Waits of the Manchester police force finds the corpse, its jaws locked in a hideous death grin, in Joseph Knox's edgy noir mystery THE SMILING MAN (Crown, $26), and for his sins catches the case. Those transgressions include a meth habit that pretty much puts Waits in debt to his hard-nosed superior officer, Superintendent Parrs, who holds him on a short leash. "It's convenient to keep a compromised officer around the place," Parrs gloats. "Someone I've got so much dirt on that I can use him for special jobs." Here, "special" means "illegal," and Waits uses his burglary skills to plant drugs on a suspect. Despite these unorthodox ploys, he's a smart guy who understands that "sometimes you confound expectations, sometimes you grow into the thing that people think you are." thirty years ago, six teenagers went camping in Brinken Wood. Five of them came out alive, and one of them was never seen again until now, in the opening pages of SHE LIES IN WAIT (Random House, $27). This enjoyably chilling suspense tale by Gytha Lodge conveys both the thrills and the dangers of being a teenager on the brink of adult independence. Aurora Jackson never had the chance to taste those thrills before the dangers caught up with her, leaving her bones behind to be found by a rebellious little girl poking around in the woods. Lodge tells the story in interlocking time frames that shift from the present to a summer day in 1983 when 14-year-old Aurora was allowed to hang out with her older sister Topaz's "strange, anarchic, brilliant and beautiful friends." The obvious questions of how she died and at whose hand are properly dealt with. But the fascination of this story is in the character studies of the surviving children, all grown up now and participants in a dark mystery that they all wish had never seen the light of day. Marilyn STASIO has covered crime fiction for the Book Review since 1988. Her column appears twice a month.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 The heat that year was annihilating. The endless, fever dream days passed slowly, and afterward you wondered if they'd even been real. Beneath the hum of air conditioners, the chink of ice in glasses, you could almost hear it. The slow drip of people losing their minds. The city was brilliantly lit, like an unending explosion you were expected to live inside, and the nights, when they finally came, felt hallucinatory, charged with electricity. You could see the sparks--the girls in their summer clothes, the boys with their flashing white teeth--everywhere you went. There's a particular look on their faces between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Falling in and out of bars, kissing on street corners, swinging their arms along the pavements. Whatever's happened to them before is long gone and, for a few hours at least, they feel like tomorrow might never come. Most of them are students, sheltering from the economic downturn in degree courses they'll never pay off. The others work minimum-wage jobs and live for the weekend. When I see them they're living in the moment, for better or worse, and the doubt, their default setting during the daytime, is replaced by some kind of certainty. I was on my 120th night shift in a row. Six months into what felt like a life sentence.  My own kind of certainty. So I watched their faces, the young people, between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. I watched life literally passing me by. I nodded when they did, smiled when they smiled and tried to stay in the moment. I kept my head down and took the positives, the sparks, wherever I could get them.  We were already on Wilmslow Road when the call came through. An enormous interconnecting through-line, it runs almost six miles, linking the moneyed properties south of town with the struggling city center. It's the busiest bus route in Europe and always alive with taxis, double-deckers, commuters and light. And lately, with fires that someone had been setting in the steel dustbins lining the road. Because these fires were low priority, likely meaningless, and always set after dark, they fell to us, the night shift. There were only two permanent members of the team. Young detectives rotated through, just to say they'd done it, and some of the no-hope floaters did a few shifts a month to cover our days off, but permanent night duty meant one of two things. No life or no career. In my few years on the force, I'd managed to satisfy both requirements. The dustbin fire was already out when we got there. My partner and I arrived to smoldering cinders, asked some questions and had begun to pack it up when we saw a crowd gathering on the other side of the road. I checked the time and drifted through the traffic toward them. They were preparing a midnight vigil for a kid called Subhi Seif. Supersize to his friends. Until a few hours before, Supersize had been an eighteen-year-old fresher, living in a city for the first time in his life. Then he'd seen a girl being mugged and gone after the man who did it. He'd run into the road without looking for traffic and been obliterated beneath the wheels of a bus. The mugger got away. Alongside the torches, UV lights and flowers already laid in tribute, ten or so of Supersize's friends were standing marking the spot. They played sad songs from their phones and passed sweating cans of beer to keep cool. I reminded them not to stray out into the road themselves, then crossed back to the car where my partner was waiting. We drove an unmarked matt-black BMW that criminals could still spot at a glance. Mainly because of the man usually crammed into the passenger side. My superior officer, Detective Inspector Peter Sutcliffe. At a glance he could only look like a cop or a criminal, and I still wasn't sure which was closer to the truth. "How are the Chicken McNuggets?" he said, not looking up from the sport section. Sutcliffe was one of life's great nature-nurture debates. Was he a born shit, or had he just grown into one because of his unfortunate name? His suit jacket, filled to breaking point by his body, looked water-damaged with sweat, and he was giving off so much heat that we sat with the doors wide open. "What's on the radio?" I said, nodding at the scanner, the reason he'd waved me back over the road. He turned a page, sniffed. "The Hamburglar's struck again." I waited and he sighed, folded the paper. "It was sexual harassment, or assault, or something . . ."  "Sexual harassment or something?" Sutcliffe's face, neck and body were swollen in odd, ever-shifting places, and his skin was deathly pale. He looked like he'd survived an embalming. We never used his full name, just called him Sutty to avoid distressing the public any further.  "Jesus Christ, this heat." He ran a hand through his glistening, thinning hair. "Feels like I've had a blood transfusion from Freddie fucking Mercury." He looked up, remembered I was there and gave me a yellow smile. "You know me, Aid, I zone out as soon as I hear anything 'sexual.' We're going to Owens Park, though, if you wanna crack on . . ."  Sexual harassment or something. The only thing Sutty hated more than young women was me. I watched him as he began applying the alcoholic skin sanitizer that he used compulsively, whenever I got in or out of the car. It made him look like he was rubbing his hands together with glee. I gave him a smile to keep things interesting. Then I indicated and pulled out into the road.   2 It was almost midnight when we arrived at Owens Park. The largest halls of residence in the city and home to more than two thousand students, most of them first years. Set in spacious, leafy grounds, the campus comprises five main blocks, including one tower which can be seen from the street, glowering out over the trees. Gray buildings clash hard with green surroundings. The baby boomer wet dream. It had been built to last in the sixties but was looking its age now. There was talk of tearing the lot down and starting from scratch but it would be a shame when they finally got around to it. So much of the city already looked like a building site.  I parked up and looked at Sutty. "You coming?" "That's a personal question. Just give us a call if her knicker-drawer needs searching." He returned to his paper. "You're always so good with the little girls . . ." I got out of the car, ignoring his tone, frankly grateful not to be taking him with me. Sutty and I were two different kinds of bad cop. Our being partnered together was a sort of punishment for us both, and we each tried to make things as difficult as possible for the other. It was the only thing we had in common. I walked through the gate. Followed the stark white lights, blazing in the darkness. I smelled the freshly cut grass and felt a flicker of excitement. I'd never lived here but had visited a few times when I was younger, crashing parties, seeing friends. It was strange to think that I wasn't in touch with any of them now, that dozens of people must have occupied their rooms, their beds, their lives, in the intervening years. For a moment I felt like I was walking into my past, going through a gateway into Neverland. I heard a scream of laughter and saw a teenage girl run by, being chased by a boy with a Super Soaker. Looking over my shoulder, I watched them melt into the darkness, still laughing. It reinforced a cruel, universal truth. I would age. Owens Park would always be eighteen.  I consulted the campus map, found the block I was looking for, buzzed a first-floor flat and waited. The grounds were eerily quiet now and I turned to look around. Felt the latent power of a day's heat, humming up from the grass. Across the path stood another firm, gray block of buildings--lit windows glaring at me. I heard the bolt of the door click and turned to open it. Excerpted from The Smiling Man: A Novel by Joseph Knox All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.