Welsh navigates a delicate balance in this novel, plumbing the depths of depravity with a flawed hero, the brutality real but never gratuitous. Edgy, hard and honest, this is a no-frills story: profoundly unsettled by his recent experiences on the job, P.I. Ray Lennox of the Edinburgh PD has come to Miami with his fiancé, Trudi, a geography Ray hopes will offer respite from the horrific memories of a recent case - the abuse and murder of a young girl.
The investigation has taken Lennox deep into the world of pedophilia, leaving his soul still knotted up with the degeneracy of the perpetrators he investigates in a desperate search to save the child: “Lennox was too sensitive to cope with the savagery that surrounded him in Serious Crimes.” While Trudi busies herself with wedding lists and a copy of Perfect Bride magazine, Lennox unravels, discarding his anti-depressants and NA indoctrination in favor of the soothing, debilitating alcohol that seems the only substance to soothe his tortured soul and keep his nightmares at bay.
Most of the action occurs in Miami, but flashbacks to Edinburgh indicate the spiritual complexity of Ray’s internal struggle, a pervasive helplessness against a heinous evil. The inevitable quarrel ensues: Trudi retreats to the hotel, giving Ray the license he needs to sink into the black hole of drink and forgetfulness, joining two women for an extended cocaine binge. All his demons loosed by booze and drugs, Lennox’s natural police radar is dimmed, but not extinguished.
In the company of strangers, his is the only voice of reason, and that arbitrary, keeping the monsters at bay to protect one woman’s daughter, ten-year-old Tianna. Too familiar, this howling vortex of insanity and psychic pain, Ray finds himself on the road with a ten-year-old stranger, looking for a place for a child in jeopardy: “It really does become… the battle between good and evil.” While Trudi frets and questions her judgment in choosing this man, Lennox is compelled to make right what he failed to do in Scotland: to save a child from the certain horrors of her future.
From trendy Miami to the shabby mean streets where certain violence awaits the unsuspecting, Lennox is hard-pressed to make sense of his actions, driven more by instinct than rationality. This flawed protagonist, Welsh’s brilliant centerpiece, is the perfect canvas, a modern-day hero frustrated by the sheer volume of criminal enterprise and child exploitation, bravely attempting to overcome his shortcomings to rescue one who cannot fend for herself.
Traveling into some really dark places in the human psyche, Welsh delivers Lennox to the light, battered and bruised but finally able to break from the torpor that has rendered him helpless since the depressing case in Scotland. The prose is always riveting if deeply disturbing, an unflinching account of redemption from despair. Through it all, Lennox’s sardonic humor escapes from time to time, breaking the surface as marriage-minded Trudi pulls him back into the world of now.