Talk about truth in advertising! Irvine Welsh's novel about an evil Edinburgh cop is filthy enough to please the most crud-craving fans of his blockbuster debut, Trainspotting
. Like Trainspotting
matches its nastiness with a maniacal, deeply peeved sense of humor. Though one does feel the need to escape this train wreck of a narrative from time to time for a shower and some chamomile tea, just as often Welsh provokes a belly laugh with an extraordinarily perverse and cruelly funny set piece. Nicely violent turns of phrase litter the ghastly landscape of his tale.
Our hero, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, is a cross between Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant and John Belushi in Animal House. His task is to nab a killer who has brained the son of the Ghanaian ambassador, but bigoted Bruce is more urgently concerned with coercing sex from teenage Ecstasy dealers, planning vice tours of Amsterdam, and mulling over his lurid love life. He's also got a tapeworm, whose monologue is printed right down the middle of many pages. Here's one of this unusually articulate parasite's realizations: "My problem is that I seem to have quite a simple biological structure with no mechanism for the transference of all my grand and noble thoughts into fine deeds."
Welsh's real strength is comic tough talk and inventive slang. The murder mystery helps organize his tendency to sprawl, but the engine of his art is wry, harsh dialogue. At one point, his books hogged the entire top half of Scotland's Top Ten Bestsellers list--and half the buyers of Trainspotting had never bought a book before. The reason is not that Welsh is the best novelist who ever got short-listed for the Booker Prize. It is that he is that rarest of phenomena, an original voice. --Tim Appelo
From Publishers Weekly
Another scabrous, lurid, blackly comic novel from America's favorite Scottish enfant terrible, this one does for present-day Edinburgh what James Ellroy does for 1950s Los Angeles. Welsh begins with a detective's investigation into a murder?the death of a Ghanaian ambassador's son?and turns it into a vivid exploration of the detective's own twisted psyche and seedy milieu. Detective Bruce Robertson finds himself preoccupied not with the murder but with his own genital eczema, sadistic sexual antics involving any number of girlfriends and prostitutes, his increasingly chronic appetite for coke, alcohol and greasy fast food and, finally, the parasite that has taken up residence in his intestines. Welsh effectively plays off Robertson's bilious narration with the coolly insistent voice of another entity?the tapeworm, who seems to be the repository of Robertson's childhood memories and what is left of his superego?as the detective spins out of control, wasting himself in increasingly risky games of erotic asphyxiation with one of his mistresses (ex-wife of another detective), machinations to undermine his colleagues, and misanthropic rage: "Criminals, spastics, niggers, strikers, thugs, I don't fucking well care, it all adds up to one thing: something to smash." Even for readers who have mastered Welsh's Scots dialect, such an eloquently nasty narrator can be exhausting. As in the past, Welsh himself sometimes seems rather compromised as a satirist by the glee he takes in his characters' repulsiveness. Yet if this hypnotic chronicle of moral and psychological ruin (funnier and far more accessible than Welsh's last full-length novel, Marabou Stork Nightmares) fails to charm a wide readership, it will not disappoint devotees. Editor, Gerald Howard; author tour.
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