Book #66

The Long Knives by Irvine Welsh

Ritchie Gulliver MP is dead. Castrated and left to bleed in an empty Leith warehouse.

Vicious, racist and corrupt, many thought he had it coming. But nobody could have predicted this.

After the life Gulliver has led, the suspects are many: corporate rivals, political opponents, the countless groups he's offended. And the vulnerable and marginalised, who bore the brunt of his cruelty - those without a voice, without a choice, without a chance.

As Detective Ray Lennox unravels the truth, and the list of brutal attacks grows, he must put his personal feelings aside. But one question refuses to go away - who are the real victims here?

You all know by now I am biased to a fault when it comes to Welsh. I didn’t even know this one was due to be released till I saw his face on my telly one night and scrambled to get my order in.

Crime isn’t one of my favourites, and I blame the Miami sun for that. I prefer Welsh’s characters to be floating in the grey setting of Edinburgh, leaning into the darkness of the culture, and operating on familiar territory. So this sequel taking place on its rightful soil was a huge draw. Not that I’d have given it a miss otherwise, ken.

We’re back with Ray Lennox, the detective who we thought had somewhat healed at the end of Crime. The demons are still there, however, and his job does very little to promote his progress. When a local MP is brutally killed, and the motive is suspected to be a dark one, Ray is catapulted into the investigation as he simultaneously deals with continuing pressures from his own life.

Welsh shows us a lot of human affliction here; a classic offering from him. We visit transphobia, substance abuse, sexual assault, and see a range of political commentary. We’re shown the climate by anti-establishment folks trapped in a system which won’t allow them to behave how they like, and we’re treated to effective demonstrations of how those on the higher rungs are protected.

And you absolutely cannot beat the feeling when one of the Trainspotting boys makes a cameo appearance. The excitement when I realised was similar to the feeling of him winking at me when I was sitting waiting for the Trainspotting stage show to start. Unreal.

My thoughts are probably controversial, but this one is better than Crime. Grim, gloomy, gorgeous; I got all the darkness and human frailty I was looking for, and on the bleak streets of Edinburgh, where I like to see it best.