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by Irvine Welsh
Jonathan Cape, July 2008
320 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0224080520

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I suppose the stark, single word title of this novel says it all: CRIME. It is about paedophilia, and what greater crime than this-- even murder-- can be found? Crimes against children are surely completely inexcusable and, from newspaper reports, it appears even hardened criminals are so offended at the crimes committed by their fellow gaolbirds that paedophiles have to be separated from the general prison population for their own protection. Thus, the main crime in this book is, by its very nature, hugely distasteful to readers.

The prologue of the book is frightening. A young girl is begging her mother not to go out. She knows that if her mother goes out (and, she, of course, left by herself) something dreadful will happen at the end of the evening. And when she hears her mother return, she must brace herself for what is to come.

Ray Lennox is on stress leave from the Edinburgh police. Mind, flying at 32,000 feet is not free of its own set of stresses, but at least the time spent at such altitude is only relatively brief. He and his girlfriend Trudi want to plan their wedding and their overseas holiday is to be spent deciding on how best to organise the occasion - which might in and of itself mean that Ray will need rather more stress leave after this set is finished.

Ray is haunted by a case on which he had been working, that of a murdered child. He has been warned not to think about the little girl, but it's hard to let go, even though the perpetrator has been found.

Lennox and Trudi have decided on Miami for their holiday. Trudi, who seems to be a very slow reader, is engrossed in a bridal magazine, but once they land, some of Lennox's friends carry him off, away from his fiancée. Despite his attempts to get off both drugs and booze, Ray visits a bar where he meets two women, Robyn and Starry-- and eventually winds up at their flat surrounded by drugs. There he also meets the little girl, Robyn’s daughter Tianna.

Lennox is put in a position where he must rescue Tianna from a paedophile, but in order to do so, must remove her from her mother’s house and drive her to a purported 'uncle'.

For all that the main thread of this book is so unpleasant, it is an engrossing read. The characterisation is, unfortunately, all too convincing with the damaged Edinburgh cop having to try to rescue himself from addiction as well as the child from abuse.

There is, for all the misery, an optimistic note to the whole - the possibility that an adult former victim of child abuse may be able to save children from being abused, rescuing them from situations similar to the awful things that happened to them in their own childhoods.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, July 2008

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