CRIME by Irvine Welsh (Random House), 341 pages, $24.95 paper. Rating: NN
Irvine Welsh, known best for his druggy humour, gleefully scatological bent and the gruff pub vernacular of his characters, plays it amazingly straight and close to the vest in his most recent novel, Crime. So close and earnest, in fact, that you can hardly believe you're reading Welsh.
Divested of his gnarled brogue and cleaving to genre boilerplate, however, Welsh can be stultifyingly bland.
Police officer Ray Lennox (a character who makes an appearance in earlier novel Filth) is on mental health leave in Miami with his fiancée, Trudy. He is also a tattered bundle of clichés: a booze- and drug- scarred police officer haunted by his last case, the particularly cold-blooded sexual murder of a young girl.
His gym-toned fiancée is a vain officer's wife unable to see him for the psychological ash heap he is, perfunctorily scanning a copy of Perfect Bride magazine and planning their wedding while silently resenting Lennox for his womanizing past.
The tension of their unspoken resentments leads Lennox to storm off on a bender, where he runs into two cocaine-huffing Miami women and follows them home.
Readers persistent to this point are finally rewarded with some genuine momentum when Lennox gets embroiled in a new nightmare. The 10-year-old daughter of one of the women has been the victim of a vicious pedophile who's also a Miami cop.
Haunted by flashbacks from his last case and enraged by his wounded sense of policeman's honour, Lennox attempts to drive the girl to safety across the state - Welsh's best writing centres on the relationship between the two as they drive - and on the way discovers a vile child abuse ring.
Welsh does a decent job of building a compelling and predictable tale of lost innocence, evil and redemption. The adrenaline pumps in places, and you'll want to read to the bitter end. For inventive crime drama set in Florida, however, Elmore Leonard wins hands down.