On the outs since being caught stealing drugs from the evidence room, Manchester police detective Aidan Waits is pressured by a superior into posing as a bounced cop to investigate a top drug dealer and hired by a member of Parliament to find and report back on his runaway teenage daughter.
The dealer is Zain Carver, a slick operator whose stroke of brilliance is to sell drugs at the bars and clubs he owns, with the bar manager distributing the goods and an attractive female employee collecting the money. Conveniently enough for the damaged Waits, who narrates the novel through a cocaine haze, the MP's down-and-out 17-year-old, Isabelle, has fallen in with Carver. The deeper Waits pushes into a world of ruthless drug bosses, dirty cops, and corrupt politicians, the more he opens himself up to abuse—there's hardly a scene in which he isn't receiving or recovering from a serious beating. But after falling for one of Carver's collection girls and awakening to Isabelle's dire predicament, he becomes determined to do good. The book is longer than it needs to be, losing sight for long stretches of the key disappearance a decade ago of a woman who was preparing to testify against Carver. But Knox, taking a cue from legendary Manchester band Joy Division's doom-laden romanticism, is brilliantly in command of the book's unusual blend of horrific and hopeful. And in what other crime novel are you going to learn that ultraviolet lighting is used in certain clubs so addicts wanting to shoot up can't see the veins in their arms?
A powerfully assured debut by a British novelist who has the potential to be a leading player in modern noir.