The Smiling Man

The Smiling Man
Genre : Fiction
Published : 8 Mar 2018 - Transworld
‘I usually experienced the presence of a dead body as an absence, but in this case, it felt like a black holeopening up in front of me’.
Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city. There they find the body of a man. He is dead. And he is smiling. The tags have been removed from the man’s clothes. His teeth filed down and replaced. Even his fingertips are not his own. Only a patch sewn into the inside of his trousers gives any indication as to who he was, and to the desperate last act of his life...
But even as Waits puts together the pieces of this stranger’s life, someone is sifting through the shards of his own. When the mysterious fires, anonymous phone calls and outright threats escalate, he realises that a ghost from his own past haunts his every move.
And to discover the smiling man’s identity, he must finally confront his own.


Dark and stylish, but also that rare thing – complex and impeccable plotting to complement the writing. This guy is the real deal. Knox: It’s Mancunian for noir.

Val McDermid

Joseph Knox writes electric novels. His prose is neon-tinted; his plotting high-wattage. A major voice in fiction, and a writer of furious talent.

A.J. Finn, author of the no.1 New York Times bestseller, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW

You can trace Aidan Waits's lineage direct from Marlowe through Bosch and Rebus — maverick sleuth with a savagely poetic turn of phrase that packs serious observation of the human condition under the laughs — though Waits has the self-sabotage knob turned up to 11. Imperfect as he is, the Manchester DC is the shining light in a world peopled by the worst kinds of bad people. This is Knox's second Waits book in what holds the promise of a classic series.

The Sunday Times Crime Club, Star Pick

If you liked SIRENS, you will love THE SMILING MAN. Gritty, noir, and packing a punch from the very first page.

Jane Harper, bestselling author of THE DRY

Knox’s first novel was pedal-to-the-floor stuff, and this is even more powerful. One thing is sure: Knox is no one-hit wonder.

Barry Forshaw, The Guardian

THE SMILING MAN is even better than SIRENS… Talents such as Knox rarely emerge more than once in a generation. THE SMILING MAN is a crime-fiction masterpiece.


Gritty, clever and full of dark humour, this Manchester-set noir novel will take hold of you and refuse to let go. Say hello to your new favourite detective.

Dead Good Books

The Smiling Man impresses from the outset as Knox weaves a shadowy world of students ‘living in the moment, for better or worse’ and imperfect, unhappy people living in ‘beat-up’ boarding houses blackened by smog, in streets blighted by the ‘sad melodrama’ of everyday existence… Written with Knox’s powerful descriptive prose and underpinned with black humour, a plot full of perfectly gathered threads, and a bone-chilling, gut-wrenching intensity, this remarkable thriller is proof of an author with far more than one ‘big’ book to his name.

Pam Norfolk,

SIRENS was one of the best books of last year and this intense, blackly comic follow-up is just as good. In his portrayal of the dark side of Manchester, Joseph Knox has conjured up a sense of evil and corruption so vivid you can almost smell it.

Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express Magazine

Knox burst on to the crime scene last year with his debut, Sirens (just out in paperback). As with all good crime series, IMHO, while the plot was a satisfying page-turner, what left me drumming my fingers for the follow up was the screwed up but not clichéd (I promise) detective Aidan Waits. Now The Smiling Man is here, and, trust me, what you’ll find out about Waits’ family takes screwed up to a whole new level.

Sam Baker, The Pool

Great urban cop thriller.

Ian Rankin

Stylish, intelligent and full of heart, Joseph Knox is the best thing to have happened to English crime fiction in years.

The Irish Times

Another gripping, darkly poetic entry in a series worthy of comparison to Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor novels.


A "compelling and beautifully crafted noir thriller.

Mystery Scene Magazine

A "shocking, elegantly-wrought police procedural.

The Seattle Review of Books

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