If there is one thing that I have no time for it is racism. I cannot understand the stupidity of people who do not get along just because they are slightly different; tell me if I am wrong, but we all still bleed red? The issue of race is a controversial one and many people just avoid it to prevent themselves being labelled in anyway. For professionals who work with people day to day they must worry that someone will use race against them. Police in particular must have this issue as they need to arrest people of all creeds; the fact is that there are some racist police officers out there, but I have to believe that the majority are stand up people just trying to do their job. If you wanted to write a crime book all about race there have been enough race hate crime to do just this. However, do you tackle the issue sensitively or write the usual exploitation?
When an Asian school teacher is shot dead, swiftly flowed by the stabbing of an African student and brutal beating of a black woman there looks to be a worrying trend occurring on the streets of Glasgow. Detective Perlman is assigned as part of a task force to look into these apparent race hate crimes and look into a group calling themselves White Rage. However, although these crimes seem linked only by their basis in racism Perlman starts to see a deeper pattern that could uncover a far more subtle plan. With himself being Jewish, Perlman must find out who the killer is before he himself is used for target practise.
As mentioned in my opening paragraph the idea of using race in a crime book is controversial. An intelligent and well researched book can sidestep any issues by developing all sides of the argument and painting a rounded picture. However, author Campbell Armstrong is not in this line of fiction, instead specialising in crime fiction that acts merely as a thriller. Therefore, does Armstrong approach to race issues work? Not really. As a tool to provoke emotion in a reader the book succeeds. Armstrong is good at stoking the fires of indignation as you want the villains to get their just desserts. However, the book is not really about race hate, but instead it is yet another pot boiling crime thriller. The race issue is merely a topping to an otherwise straight forward crime thriller.
In terms of providing these thrills the book does work. There is a solid whodunit hidden behind all the exploitation that Armstrong writes. The element that stood out for me was the structure of running Perlman's story parallel to that of the killer/killers. By comparing the cat and the mouse you get a sense of urgency hoping that Perlman will catch up with them before they kill again. However, these dual elements also highlight some of the issues. I felt that the sections surrounding the killers were far stronger than the detective elements. In the finite space given to the race haters Armstrong gives a good insight into the bigotry that fuels them.
It is the elements that surround Detective Perlman that are slightly weak. The killer and the story is decent enough, just the investigator lets them down. Firstly, he is not that likable a man. A bit frumpy and dull I found him like an uncharismatic version of David Jason's 'Frost'. We spend as much time learning about his sad home life as we do investigating the case, I for one did not really care. Another element that annoyed me about the character was Armstrong's fault entirely. Perlman is a Jewish character and don't we know it. As the story is about racism Armstrong thinks we need to be reminded about Perlman's origins over and over again to the point of patronising the reader. As a reader I fully understand the implications that a Jewish person would have when dealing with people who hold the same values as Hitler. Race is a more prominent issue in Glasgow due to sectarian violence, but I personally felt that Armstrong went over Perlman's background too much and that it impacted on the book negatively.
The best parts of the book did not follow Perlman's investigations, but the killers. These parts are well written and a little grim. They are believable in a way that the police sections are perhaps not. I liked the idea behind the book and the way that the crimes eventually panned out. Unfortunately, I felt that Armstrong made it a little confusing at times. It is an outdated concept in crime noir that you baffle a person till the end and then explain it all in one go. For me this is poor noir and what happens in 'Rage', Armstrong muddies the waters so much that the core motives are lost and have to be explained separately at the end. This is a shame as the first half of the book is a thrilling and disturbing look into race hatred.
Author: Campbell Armstrong
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