True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

Transworld Digital| 17 Jun. 2021| 433 pages| e-book Review copy| 2.5* rounded up to 3*

Synopsis:

What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Zoe Nolan may be missing presumed dead, but her story is only just beginning

True Crime Story is Joseph Knox’s fourth novel, his first standalone. Previously I’ve read two of his Detective Aidan Waits novels, The Smiling Man and The Sleepwalker, which I loved – they’re both brilliant, dark and violent urban noir novels. They’re also amongst the most complicated books that I’ve ever read. So my expectations for True Crime Story were very high, but, I’m sorry to say, I was disappointed. In fact I almost abandoned it several times, until about the 50% mark when I realised that I had to read on because I wanted to know what had happened to Zoe.

Despite the title this is not a nonfiction true crime story, nor a mix of fact and fiction, it is a novel and it includes the author, Joseph Knox, as one of its characters. It has a story within the story – made up of emails to and from Knox and another writer (fictional) Evelyn Mitchell. Evelyn is writing a book about the disappearance of a student at Manchester University, Zoe Nolan. Her book is a collection of the interviews she carried out with Zoe’s family and friends seven years after Zoe’s disappearance, which she sends to Joseph Knox as she collates them, and asks for his advice.

Initially I found this rather confusing but I gradually worked out their relationships and characters, although it is repetitive and reads as a long session of interviews about the same events as seen through each character’s perspective. For me, this makes it fragmentary and in parts disjointed, slows down the action, and lessens the tension and suspense even as the facts about the mystery emerge, including what happens to Evelyn herself.

However, many other readers love this book, so I am in the minority. It has had rave reviews and was short listed for this year’s Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Fiction Novel of the Year, an award that celebrates excellence, originality, and the very best in crime fiction from UK and Irish authors. You may enjoy it more than I did!

My thanks to the publishers Transworld Digital for a review copy via NetGalley.

The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox

The Sleepwalker Knox

The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox is the third Detective Aidan Waits novel. It has to be the most complicated book that I’ve read in a very long time. Two years ago I read the second book, The Smiling Man, even though I hadn’t read the first one, Sirens, and loved it, so I was keen to read the third one. It certainly didn’t disappoint me and although I think the books read well as stand-alones, it would probably be best to read them in order. To say that Waits has troubled background is an understatement. He is a disturbed and complex character, other police officers don’t trust him or want to work with him.  He plays very close to the edge and has little regard for his own safety. 

The Sleepwalker is dark, violent and absolutely brilliant. I just didn’t want it to end and at the same time I just had to know what happened next. There are so many strands that you have to keep in mind, so many characters to sort out where they fit into the story and it’s all so cleverly linked together. You think you have it sorted and then you realise there’s more to come. It’s perfectly paced throughout, culminating in an astounding and shocking conclusion that had me reeling.

Quite simply, I loved it.

My thanks to Transworld Publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

 

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

Yesterday I went to my favourite bookshop Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. This is where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves.

These are the books I brought home:

River of Darkness by Rennie Airth – I was hoping to find this book as Cafe Society recommended it. It’s the first book in his John Madden series. Inspector John Madden of Scotland Yard investigates the murder of a family in the post-World War I British countryside. A veteran of the war, Madden immediately recognizes the work of a soldier, but discovering the motive will take longer.

Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill. I always check to see if there are any of his books on the shelves that I haven’t got/read, so I was pleased to find this one. It’s the third Dalziel and Pascoe book in which Pascoe finds his social life and work uncomfortably brought together by a terrible triple murder. Meanwhile, Dalziel is pressuring him about a string of unsolved burglaries, and as events unfold the two cases keep getting jumbled in his mind.

Beryl Bainbridge is another author whose books I always look out for, and this visit I found Every Man for Himself. This novel is about the voyage of the Titanic, on its maiden and final voyage in 1912.

Sirens by Joseph Knox. I wasn’t looking for this book, or for books by Knox, but it caught my eye as I browsed the shelves and I remembered that earlier this year I’d read  and thoroughly enjoyed The Smiling Man. Set in ManchesterSirens is Knox’s debut book featuring DC Aidan Waits. Young women are lured into enigmatic criminal Zain Carver’s orbit and then they disappear.

Once more I’m torn between reading these as soon as possible, or reading from my TBR shelves and review copies from NetGalley. It’s a dilemma 🙂

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Do they tempt you too?

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox

 

Transworld Publishers| 8 March 2018|392 p|e-book|Review copy|5*

Description