Dime-store psychology and half-baked moralizing undermine this character-driven police procedural.
The fiction of Scotland’s Welsh has traveled quite a distance from Trainspotting, as he returns to a character introduced in Filth (1998), a novel with a generic title similar to this one’s. A sidekick in that book, Scottish DI Ray Lennox, takes center stage here. The investigation of a child rape and murder has left Lennox unhinged, so he is ordered to take recuperative leave with his fiancée, Trudi, in Miami. Obviously his superiors haven’t read enough Florida crime fiction to realize that this cesspool isn’t likely to facilitate Lennox’s recovery. First he decides to discontinue the anti-depressants that have barely been keeping him afloat, and to return to the self-medication of alcohol and illicit drugs. Thus he finds himself increasingly at odds with Trudi, who is obsessed with planning the perfect wedding while Lennox’s psyche continues to spiral downward. What was intended as a romantic getaway to take Lennox far from his troubles instead leads to a binge in which (what a coincidence!) he stumbles upon an American pedophile ring. Against considerable odds (and risking his crumbling relationship with Trudi in the process), he attempts to rescue a young girl in Florida as some sort of compensation for his failure to do the same in Scotland. A clever stylistic strategy is to alternate conventional, third-person, present-tense narration with second-person past-tense flashbacks (thus allowing the reader to enter Lennox’s mind as “you”). Yet the novel is weakest when Welsh tries to provide the underpinnings for his protagonist’s obsession in a boyhood trauma and dysfunctional family. Though Lennox is “depressed, lonely, and hung-over in a strange place, without his medication and possibly more vulnerable than he’d ever been in his life,” he’s ultimately the closest thing to a hero that the novelist has allowed himself to create.
A good man in a very bad world, Lennox deserves a thematically richer novel.