Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 July 2019 from Doubleday
He said he didn’t remember killing them…’
As a series of rolling blackouts plunge the city into darkness, Detective Aidan Waits sits on an abandoned hospital ward, watching a mass murderer slowly die. Transferred from his usual night shift duties and onto protective custody, he has just one job…
To extract the location of Martin Wick’s final victim before the notorious mass murderer passes away.
Wick has spent over a decade in prison, in near-total silence, having confessed to an unspeakable crime that shocked the nation and earned him the nickname of The Sleepwalker.
But when a daring premeditated attack leaves one police officer dead and another one fighting for his life, Wick’s whispered last words will send Waits on a journey into the heart of darkness…
Manipulated by a reticent psychopath from his past, and under investigation from his new partner, Detective Constable Naomi Black, Waits realises too late that a remorseless contract killer is at work.
Can Aidan Waits solve his last case before fleeing justice?
Or will his name be next on the hit list?
It’s a huge privilege to be part of this blogtour and even more so because my stop falls on publication day for The Sleepwalker. So congratulations, Joseph Knox, I’m sure this book is going to be a massive success.
Why am I sure? Partly because this man can write. And plot. And do character. The Sleepwalker is exciting. It is thrilling and boy, is it dark. It’s the kind of dark that has you scraping off the grime and spreading it thickly on a piece of paper towelling. It’s grittier than a road full of small stone chips and it thrills, exhausts and eviscerates you in equal measure.
Aidan Waits is the protagonist. This is book 3 in the Aidan Waits series, following on from Sirens and The Smiling Man and though it can easily be read as a stand-alone, I think you get more out of it of you know his backstory.
You know the Peanuts cartoon character, Pigpen? The one who walks round with a constant little ring of flies around his body? Well Aidan Waits is no Pigpen, but you can almost see that great, heavy cloud that hangs over him, shrouds him, everywhere he goes.
Waits is not just a man with demons; he is part of the darkness that inhabits the streets of Manchester where this brutal, northern noir is set. A police detective with a troubled background, living just half a notch away from total despair, Waits is a man on the edge. No-one trusts him and he in turn trusts nobody, not even his partner, ‘Sutty’, DI PeterSutcliffe, who takes an early bath and isn’t around for most of this novel, leaving Waits paired with a new partner, Detective Constable Naomi Black.
Waits and Sutty are permanently on nightshift, part of Waits punishment for being a thorn n everyone’s side. They’re on hospital duty watching over terminally ill Martin Wick, a serial killer dubbed The Sleepwalker by the tabloids. Their job is to get a deathbed declaration of where to find the body of one of his victims, in order to give the family closure.
Despite armed guards being stationed outside his room, a photograph of Wick in hospital has made the newspapers. Waits is concerned that Wicks is no longer safe and steps away from his station to make sure everything is locked down, only for chaos to break out, leaving Wick and the police guard dead and Sutty seriously injured.
Superintendent Parr, no fan of Waits, assigns him to run a shadow investigation, effectively setting him against the official one run by Chief Inspector James. Parr is angling for a top job and he wants to make sure that James won’t look too shiny, and that James’ boss will not benefit from a slick and speedy job. So Waits is already on a hiding to nothing. He can’t win and being partnered with DC Black seems to him like being assigned a watcher.
Waits has history with the biggest gangster in the area who wants him dead and there’s little love lost between him and Parr. It’s sometimes difficult to tell who is the most corrupt such are the games played by some of Waits colleagues.
Delving back into Wick’s crimes will prove to be a deadly business and Knox’s vivid description of Manchester’s seamy criminal netherworld is full of frightening, malevolent, malfeasance.
Amid the political manoeuvring of his superiors, the corrupt actions of some of his fellow officers, and the price placed on his head by an old enemy, Waits has to tread a very shoogly line just to stay alive.
This is intelligent, smart storytelling; full of layers complex characters and difficult relationships. It has a dark, visceral edge that makes you hold your breath as you reading.
Verdict: Unmissable, exciting, exhausting propulsive crime. At the darkest edge of noir, this is a book and a series for all crime fiction fans. Knox is way better than good and The Sleepwalker is superb.
Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke and Manchester,where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London.There he worked at head office Waterstones selecting the crime thrillers and classics for focus attention across the company. Now writing full time, he runs, writes and reads compulsively. His debut novel Sirens was a bestseller. The Sleepwalker is the third book in the DC Aidan Waits series.