Book Review: Crime

‘His thoughts are like a landslide…’

Irvine Welsh and his twisted tales of Edinburgh debauchery have always had moments of deprivation and darkness. One of the subplots of Trainspotting (wisely discarded for the film adaptation) involved the abduction of a dying man’s family in order to trick him into thinking that they had all been viciously murdered. Crime takes place in the same universe as Trainspotting, but it is ostensibly a sequel to Filth – one of Welsh’s more gruelling reads. That novel ended with Bruce ‘Robbo’ Robertson committing suicide, and so Filth picks up from the point of view of Ray Lennox, Robbo’s co-worker and friend.

As is traditional for Welsh’s novels, there are a number of disparate plot threads and narratives taking place at the same time (or in flashback). We have Lennox’s trip to Miami, his one man crusade to save a young girl whose mother has been seduced by men with dark intentions. We have Lennox’s fiance Trudi and her adventures with a real estate agent and subsequent doubts about her impending marriage. Finally, we flashback to the investigation into the death of Britney Hamil – a seven-year-old girl who is raped and murdered before Lennox finally captures the killer after the fact. All three of these narratives are affecting, and Lennox is a much more sympathetic character than Robbo – his lifelong drug and alcohol problems exacerbated by childhood trauma.

Welsh is not afraid to cover difficult topics, and Crime is as close to the bone as the Scottish writer has ever been before. The result is a book that is compelling and enjoyable, but also sleazy and, at times, exhausting. I read it in a couple of weeks, but the plot stayed with me a lot longer than that, as a did a general sense of sadness that the world can be so cruel.

Crime is not for the faint-hearted, but then none of Welsh’s work is. Literature is something to be enjoyed, but it should also occasionally be challenging and honest about the ways of the world. Welsh’s seventh novel is all of the above.