Irvine Welsh - Crime (4 stars)

Irvine Welsh - Crime

(Jonathan Cape)


Irvine Welsh has never shied away from the seamy side of life, and for his ninth novel he crosses the Atlantic to the balmy climes of Florida, only to uncover a cesspit of evil that would put some of his previous local malcontents in the shade. Welsh has also gotten under the skin of the rozzers before in Filth, but this one is more about the man behind the badge and how he deals with the detritus thrown at him in the line of duty, off duty. Crime isn’t a conventional detective novel by any stretch but it is, by Welsh’s standards, a relatively conventional thriller.

A holiday away with his fiancée turns into a complicated game of chase for Ray Lennox, with the Edinburgh policeman attempting to ensure the safety of a young girl with a troubled past. But more than this, Crime is an exploration of the demons inside a man who is barely hanging on to the frayed ends of his sanity.

The rather pompous title alludes to a grander concept about the fundamental nature of wrongdoing that is never really explored, but this is a minor gripe in a ferocious and tense story. Welsh digs into the pent-up fury within Lennox’s troubled psyche while never losing the propulsive momentum of the narrative, concluding that revenge is rarely sweet and justice is meted out way too irregularly. Yet there is hope with the notion that any possibility of redemption comes from within.

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