Review: Knox by K. Arsenault Rivera, Brooke Bolander, Gabino Iglesias, and Sunny Moraine (Knox: Season #1)

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ARC received from the publisher (Serial Box) in exchange for an honest review.

I accepted this review request for several different reasons. First, the line-up sounded fantastic. Second, the setting – 1930s Manhattan. Awesome. Third, while I have read a few Lovecraft-inspired books, I have never read a noir before and I wanted to see if I can like one. I knew there was a high likelihood that it would be free of unexamined racism and sexism, which seems to be the issue with most noirs I heard of, and I was absolutely correct. It was great – a little too horror for my taste (which is more me being a wimp than any fault of the writing, really), but great.

(I should probably mention I went for the text version, not audio, so I can’t say anything about the narration.)

Morgan Knox is a detective who’s been suffering from horrific hallucinations (or are they?) ever since she returned from war, where she used to act as a nurse. Now working as a PI in Manhattan, she is called to solve a strange case and soon gets in way over her head. Naturally. The writing is for the most part very consistent – the only chapters with a noticeably different style are those by Brooke Bolander which read more like a fever dream, but it more or less made sense as something of an interlude and her style is gorgeous, so I didn’t mind much.

I really liked Knox. She’s the usual hard-drinking, cynical detective with a complex past and a hidden heart of gold, but there’s a reason why this trope works. She was easy to like – and so were her friends.

And the setting! The general atmosphere was very dark, and of course we mostly see the seedier side, but it still felt vibrant. I liked how they portrayed New York as diverse as it was, and is (it reflects in the cast as well – Knox is Puerto Rican, Ray is Black, Abe is Jewish…). There is racism and there is sexism, yes, it comes with the setting and it would have felt disingenuous otherwise, but none of it passes unquestioned. The horror elements I can’t say much about without going into spoilers, but it was much creepier than I initially expected.

All in all, Knox is a serial I enjoyed and would recommend. Especially if “lovecraftian noir” sounds good to you.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: those who want a noir without unexamined racism and sexism, fans of fantasy horror and urban fantasy, those looking for queer PoC protagonists
Not recommended to: fellow wimps, those looking for a light read

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