Ahhh…I love the feeling I get when I crack the spine on a brand new Irvine Welsh novel. I know I’m going to have trouble putting it down from then on, right off the bat. Although some of his previous works seemed to have given the impression of slacking on intelligence, dragging his readers through a trench of nearly-listless debauchery, Crime has pulled Welsh back out of the mire, and back into a universe of vivid verbal technicolour. With this latest work, Welsh has discovered a new balance between good an evil, as opposed to sliding deeper into corruption, to create a surprisingly redemptive book that is as compelling as it is disturbing.
Crime is about an Edinburgh cop named Ray Lennox, who finds himself on hiatus in Miami with his fiancee, attempting to tear himself away from his stressful job, and supposedly trying to take some time to plan his wedding. But he has trouble coming to terms with what he has left behind – an important case that involved a failure to capture a child rapist and murderer. So, as any other Welsh character is wont to do, he turns to booze, drugs and dirty nightclubs to reconcile his woes, causing a rift between himself and his fiancee and delving him into a dark world in which he has very little control.
The plot unfolds on several levels – Ray keeps revisiting his failure to close the case at work, in the meantime, he encounters a couple of whorish women, one of whom has a young daughter that is being constantly sexually abused by a parade of her pedophiliac friends, who almost mirrors the image of the dead girl that consumes his conscience. But rather than let this one slip between the cracks, Ray ignores the concept of being outside of his jurisdiction, and transforms from antihero to true hero and helps the girl escape an inevitably-horrific fate, taking her with him across the state of Florida in search of a safe haven. At the same time, Ray is trying to reconcile his own torturous past, and understand how to let go, without letting the evildoers get away with it, as well as attempting to figure out who he is. He also has to make an effort to be involved in his own wedding, and appease his bridezilla, on top of it all. Travelling through the everglades, everything culminates into a rollercoaster ride of laughter, tears and anger, as the reader is pulled through a world of corruption and innocence, of deep-seeded evil and redemption.
Welsh is one of the bravest writers of our time, finding the perfect choice of words to vividly describe the world in which you are plunged, and forcing you to face the beast that is humanity head-on. Who else but Welsh can write about sex, drugs, and pedophile rings and truly show us the wiring behind human actions? To rip apart the psyche and help us understand through soulful dissection what lies beneath the human condition? As I said before, it’s usually very difficult to put an Irvine Welsh book down – and Crime is no exception. It sucks you into the darkest of worlds and spits you back out, but it will never let you feel the same again.