This should be more aptle titled “What I’ve been reading” – I actually read this (and wrote the review for LibraryThing) back in August. Not sure why I’m so slow updating – probably just general laziness. Anyway, here you go; another crime novel this time:
Derek Raymond – The Devil’s Home On Leave
This is the second novel in Derek Raymond’s Factory series of crime novels. I felt a bit ambivalent about the first one, He Died With His Eyes Open – while on the hand very well written and presenting an interesting, British take on the noir novel, it unfortunately also often hovers on the border of being pretentious that it crosses on a couple of occasions, in particular in those passages that quote from tape recordings of the victim and that read like some second-rate Sartre of the La Nausée period (and therefore like fifth-rate Celine).
None of that in The Devil’s Home On Leave, though; this is a novel that makes no comprises in the grim outlook on society it presents and does not attempt to mitigate its bleakness by flights of pseudo-philosophical Weltschmerz. Therefore, potential readers should be warned – this is most definitely not a comfort read, but is a novel that shines a very harsh and unforgiving light on the world we live in.
And another caveat: while The Devil’s Home On Leave is a kind of a police procedural, it is most certainly not a mystery novel – the reader is told who commited the deed even before the murder occurs; and while there are some revleations as to the motivations behind it at the end, they’re not really the driving force of the novel.
The narrator, the police sergeant we know from the first Factory novel and about whose history we learn quite a bit more in this one (even though he continues to remain nameless), manages to identify the killer quite early, and what keeps the novel going is his attempt to actually prove it was him as well as figuring out the background of the crime; and in the process of the unfolding plot, the souls not only of the killer and the police officer pursuing him are laid bare, but also that of a society that not only allows evil to fester, but actively profits from it.
The Devil’s Home On Leave is a very intense read, unpleasant and discomforting, but important and rewarding precisely because of that. While being firmly rooted in the tradition of the noir genre, it still manages to be not quite like anything else out there, wielding it’s language like a scalpel, dissecting crime and evil, and keeping an unflinching gaze on the cruelty and violence that dominate so much of our world today.