Knox, from SerialBox

KnoxKnox is available on Serial Box. The last chapter there comes out next week, so this review is still spoiler-free.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review.

In fact, I was offered this product, and when I read the message part of me thought something like “oh gosh, I have so much I’ve been meaning to read and I’m really not getting to most of it. Maybe I shouldn’t?” In the meantime, the rest of me had parsed “Mythos”, “noir”, and “partly by Bolander” and was typing back something along the lines of “Yes, please, thank you.”

(To be clear: the chapters from Rivera and Iglesias and Moraine are absolutely stellar, I just didn’t know as much of their work going in.)

Knox is a serialized novel set in 1930s Manhattan. Morgan Knox was a nurse in WWI and is now a PI with a knack for dealing with the weird. When the man who committed a series of murders gets shot and falls to his death in the East River, she’s hired to look into who might have set him on the spree, and from there the story unfolds beautifully.

It’s a beautiful blend of noir and horror. We meet Morgan Knox in an extremely dynamic introduction that makes it clear that she is one tough-as-nails bad-ass PI. I’m holding off on getting into spoilers, but I cannot overstate how much Morgan’s reactions to everything she dealt with anchored the world. Both her present-day visions and the past experiences that underpin her life are horrific without being gratuitous[1], and while she keeps going in them, her doing so never feels easy or cheap. Her world-weary familiarity with horror spared me needing to sit through a protagonist who just can’t believe what’s going on as the case takes on more ominous tones; her battered stubbornness and principles made me want to see her succeed so badly. And while the general thrust of an ominous villain was made clear in the beginning, I genuinely was not expecting the details of the reveal, or how the arc of the antagonist progressed. It was creepy and chilling and ultimately damn delightful, for values of delightful that cover horrific entities from beyond our world.

Then there’s the other characters – the people already in Knox’s life and the people she runs into during the investigation (there is some overlap here). I liked reading about all of them, and even those in more antagonistic roles or who only showed up briefly were clearly drawn and distinguishable from each other. Having Knox surrounded by so many well-realized characters keeps the story from being a grim and lonely one, and really brings home how much she holds back. I deliberately took breaks between reading each chapter, and I never had any trouble slipping back into the story or remembering who people were to Knox, and judging by my own reactions at a couple of points I was really invested in them being okay.

(This is my first serial, and I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the story being broken up that way. I will say that each episode felt well-balanced; the focus differed as the story moved along, and the ending always made me look forward to more, but I was never irritated at the stopping points, if that makes sense.)

As a final note, the story is mercifully not whitewashed or Hollywoodized. I find that when reading or watching noir, especially written-to-be-period noir, there’s occasionally a tendency for the story to have a lot of white straight folks. Knox emphatically did not do that, and I was glad to see that 1930s New York had actually been portrayed as a melting pot.

Recommended for fans of the Mythos (you won’t find name-checks here, but you’ll find some great descriptions and lovely horrific scenes), fans of noir with a rich setting, and anyone who wants a combination of the two with a solid and satisfying character arc.
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[1] Please note that I may have a slightly high tolerance for descriptions of the effects of violence done to others, but this is a blend of Mythos and noir, and I think the descriptions work perfectly in that context.

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