Wielding language with the same deft authority as in his previous novels, the scathingly articulate Welsh delivers a powerful story of a man haunted by his recent failures, DI Ray Lennox of the Edinburgh PD. Breaking down after the traumatizing case of a murdered little girl, Lennox has succumbed to the sweat-soaked nightmares of his failures on the job, vainly trying to save victims from the monsters who prey on them. Attending NA and gulping down prescribed antidepressants, Lennox and fiancé, Trudi, fly to Miami for a much-needed vacation, he in an effort to clear his mind, she with a "Perfect Bride" magazine and growing guest list in hand. Caught up in wedding plans, Trudi is flummoxed when Ray goes completely off the track; she has failed to notice ominous signs of Ray's further unraveling. He stops taking his medication, his internal demons soon reawakened. It isn't long before the thirst is upon him, Ray seeking oblivion in alcohol, which only exacerbates his life problems and triggers the urge for cocaine.
Quite literally, Welsh's protagonist is a mess, an emotional and mental wreck bedeviled by memories of the little girl he couldn't save, his thoughts filled with the degenerates he interviewed while searching for the missing girl, their twisted world-views eating into his soul until he sees such men everywhere: "Lennox was too sensitive to cope with the savagery that surrounded him in Serious Crimes." A beautifully flawed protagonist, this tough cop is driven to his knees by the evil that assaults helpless children, even Trudi unable to break through the wall of pain that threatens to overwhelm him. As his drinking accelerates, the inevitable happens- a bitter argument. Trudi stalks off to their Miami hotel, leaving Ray at a bar, his rage and thirst for drink and self-punishment sending him into the embrace of the denizens who feed on the innocence of the poor and vulnerable. From tourist-friendly Miami to the darker, meaner streets of abuse, drugs and various forms of depravity, Lennox is in free fall, partying with his new best friends, trapped in yet another nightmare, groggily rescuing ten-year-old Tianna from the circling sharks.
Once again, Welsh is at the top of his game, his extremely sympathetic, tormented hero struggling for clarity far from his native Scotland, on a mad chase with a child across Florida to evade her predators, Trudi flailing at her helplessness and this vacation-run-amok, wondering what she is doing with this man. Ray's torment is a beautiful thing in Welsh's hands, including the flashbacks in Edinburgh that lay the groundwork for the protagonist's mental condition, a cynical, often sardonic cop caught in the vortex of a crime he most detests, looking for redemption with a damaged child at his side. This is a tough story- no punches pulled- the ugly underbelly of this particular form of degeneracy exposed to the light. Physically and mentally battered, Lennox is called upon to exorcise his long-repressed demons in a final effort to save himself from the horrors around him. Miami will never be the same, this wild Scot marking his territory as he races with Tianna one step ahead of the villains: "It really does become... the battle between good and evil." Luan Gaines/ 2008.