- Book: Sirens
- Location: Manchester
- Author: Joseph Knox
Sirens is set in the early months of a very British winter and takes full advantage of the grey skies, swirling rain and dark shadows to enhance the storyline. It truly is “Grey Britain” and not somewhere one would choose to linger. But the characters become increasingly caught up in a sticky web of underworld drug dealing, police infiltration and sliding investigations; add into the mix a politician who lives in high style atop the highest building in Manchester, the Beetham Tower (completed 2006 at a cost of £150 million, apparently) – also the tallest residential building in the whole of Europe – we are talking money. And, as we know, money talks.
But in the story not many characters are really ready to talk. Aidan Waits is a disgraced detective, who is described as being young, yet he feels old and careworn, and the fact that he takes speed serves to underline that he is a policeman very much on the edge. He has a choice: face charges for tampering with evidence, or choose to go under cover…. he chooses the latter option.
He is given the task of investigating the twilight world of “The Franchise“, a drug network run by Zain Carver, whilst tracking the MP’s AWOL daughter, Isabelle Rossiter, who is tangled up in the dark doings of the drug baron. She is an unstable young woman, a mere 17 years of age, and has already tried to commit suicide. She has two scars jabbed into her neck, joined by a slanting slash, which seem to make a “Z”; can any clues be drawn from that letter seemingly etched into her neck, I wondered as I read?
The murky underworld is populated by ostensibly fragile young women – Cath in her leathers and pencil skirts, Sarah Jane with her flurry of red hair – who collect the drugs for the master, and Aidan, in his own inimitable way is drawn to one of them. Are these the Sirens of the title, luring hapless males deeper into the Hadean milieu? Or does the title simply refer to the police vehicles that speed across the landscape? Whichever, Aidan’s love interest soon gets sucked into the surreal world of alcohol fuelled nightclub life, as he himself prowls the streets looking for the way forward.
A 10 year anniversary of a missing young woman seems to coincide with the black and white paint daubed at critical points of the narrative, old scores are perhaps being settled, and immediately Aidan thinks of the Burnside gang, inactive, as until recently their top dog was doing time. But he is out now….
As a reader, you will encounter a well crafted story, that slides and bucks as it comes to its conclusion. You will learn much about the drug world, that, for example, heroin is eight, H being the eighth letter in the alphabet; and UV light first appeared in night clubs to impede users seeing their veins to shoot up because you can’t distinguish the veins in the light (who knew!). And the narrative will keep you in a dimly lit netherworld until you burst out from the darkness for a breath of healthy fresh air. You are warned!
Manchester can be identified by the towering residential edifice, the dark shadows along Deansgate, and Gorton Cemetery makes an appearance. It is a venal city at this level, certain markers anchor it in Manchester but it could be a story set in any big British city.