Jim Francis has finally found the perfect life – and is now unrecognisable, even to himself. A successful painter and sculptor, he lives quietly with his wife, Melanie, and their two young daughters, in an affluent beach town in California. Some say he’s a fake and a con man, while others see him as a genuine visionary.
But Francis has a very dark past, with another identity and a very different set of values. When he crosses the Atlantic to his native Scotland, for the funeral of a murdered son he barely knew, his old Edinburgh community expects him to take bloody revenge. But as he confronts his previous life, all those friends and enemies – and, most alarmingly, his former self – Francis seems to have other ideas.
When Melanie discovers something gruesome in California, which indicates that her husband’s violent past might also be his psychotic present, things start to go very bad, very quickly.
The Blade Artist is an elegant, electrifying novel – ultra violent but curiously redemptive – and it marks the return of one of modern fiction’s most infamous, terrifying characters, the incendiary Francis Begbie from Trainspotting.
OK! Let’s do this! Trainspotting was one of the most gripping books for me during my university years. It was tricky, and twisted and everything you wished for. And it was a complete stand alone novel, with pretty clear ending and future for all characters. BUT (why is there always a but) that certainty didn’t stop Welsh from returning to his characters, first in Trainspotting sequel Porno, then in prequel Skagboys. And now there’s The Blade Artist: the return of Begbie, who is not in the boozer or even called Begbie any more.
Where there is no doubt that this is a very welcomed return of Francis Begbie, I am not sure how do I cope with this reborn Jim Francis – a middle-aged, successful artist living the dream in California with his beautiful wife and daughters. The change is so big, that one almost stops to think and gasps in awe. But once your son gets in trouble you are back to your old ways, I guess you can’t really teach an old dog new tricks :).
Irvine Welsh is a delicious read, always has been and always will be! The Blade Artist is nothing short of genius and brilliantly executed as expected! This is probably my least favourite Welsh book. Maybe because everything comes in dense opuses, not in short thrillers. Jim Francis is just as destructive as ever, albeit now more methodical, but there has to be something counteracting the unjustified pain he inflicts to make his character whole. He doesn’t have a problem with who he is, and in the end I’m not sure Welsh expects me to have any qualms either.
I am in two minds about this read. I definitely recommend it for reading, because you have to judge for yourself… But I am sure I’ll need a second read to grasp all aspects of it.