If you’re a diehard Irvine Welsh fan like S&C regular Lucy Nother, the news of a six-part TV drama from the mind of the legendary Scottish author was a much-anticipated treat. Based on Welsh’s seventh novel of the same name, Crime follows Detective Inspector Ray Lennox’s (Dougray Scott) hunt for the so-called ‘Mr Confectioner’, a serial killer and child sex offender. In classic thriller style, the story also deals with Lennox’s ongoing battle with his own demons. The TV show documents the events that lead up to where we find Lennox in the novel: on a much-needed break from the police force after the stress of the case leaves him struggling mentally.
The six-part BritBox crime drama begins in Welsh’s trusty Edinburgh with the disappearance and death of schoolgirl, Britney Hamil. Lennox and his partner DS Amanda Drummond (Joanna Vanderham), a character you might recognise from Crime’s predecessor Filth, begin their search for Britney’s killer. They come to realise that her murder is the work of a serial killer, none other than the same criminal Lennox has been pursuing for his entire career. The closer the police get to their answers, the further Ray finds himself from the light; his mental state and sobriety slowly dissipate.
As we watch Lennox spiral, we explore topics that Welsh is no stranger to in his novels: unresolved childhood trauma; addiction; abuse; familial tensions and the law. Alongside Lennox and Drummond’s case, DS Dougie Gillman (Jamie Sives) – strongly reminiscent of Trainspotting’s Francis Begbie – and Louis Leblanc (Réginal Kudiwu) are working on a double murder case, while Lennox’s girlfriend Trudi (Angela Griffin) endures with sexual harassment in the office. These storylines are significant on a standalone basis, and tie in well with the overall plot, but they are unmemorable in comparison to Lennox’s narrative – I found myself forgetting about them completely until an abrupt scene change takes us back.
Dougray Scott plays the tortured Lennox well, provided you forget everything you know about the character from Filth and Crime the novel. Admittedly, Crime the television show is nothing to do with Filth, but when you have a following like Welsh does, it is hard to ignore its roots. There are a few clever details that hardcore fans will pick up on: Lennox wearing a Motorhead t-shirt in the final scene (in which we can presume he is on his way to Florida, where the novel takes place), was an appreciated touch. The ending also leaves us hoping that Florida is explored in season two.
The most commendable performance in Crime is John Simm’s. His turn as the worst villain imaginable is spinetingling. His screen presence alone is enough to make you uncomfortable – then he opens his mouth, and you’ll find yourself shaking with anger, fear and disgust. The aforementioned Begbie-esque character Dougie does a good job of reminding you you’re inside Welsh’s head, with sick jokes providing much-needed comic relief, as other elements of the story could pass as any ITV police show.
That being said, the show is a slow burner, and it definitely gets better as the episodes go on. It starts unremarkably, like any other cop drama you’ve seen before – but dives into the nitty-gritty edge Welsh is so loved for. Overall, Crime is a smartly executed portrayal of dark, traumatic themes that real-life police unfortunately have to engage with. Forget everything you know of Crime the novel and you’re in for an enjoyable ride.