Pungent, edgy, visceral and told from beginning to end in an unchanging present tense, Suffer the Children is as good a snapshot of the state of the modern British crime novel (urban category) as you’re likely to encounter. In a London where everyone feels at risk from street crime, and knife-wielding drug dealers jostle with predatory child molesters for tabloid headlines, DIWill Wagstaffe has all the necessary accoutrements for his thankless job: brusque manner, damaged love life, aggro from both his boss and the press.When a convicted paedophile is killed in his own home, “Staffe” is obliged to put the families of abused children under an intense scrutiny– the police are obliged to protect other offenders.

As the beleaguered Staffe struggles with press hostility and the less-than-benign influence of his ex-partner Jessop, he is forced to confront a very uncomfortable issue: how far should parents go to protect their children? His moral dilemma – the police’s duty to protect those they despise –is treated even-handedly by Creed; the reader is allowed to balance responses to these incendiary issues. All this is a million miles away from the comforting milieux of more sedate British crime novels.

Creed’s writing gods, self-evidently, are the tough Americans George Pelecanos and James Ellroy, and his bleak vision of British society is minatory and unsettling; not perhaps the world we all live in, but one that anyone living in major city intersects with at one time or another. Another presiding influence is The Wire’s David Simon; the banal activities of low-level drug dealers are evoked with skill and economy, very much in the manner of Simon’s cult show. Faber has put considerable weight behind this book, but their bean-counters can probably breathe easy. On the strength of Suffer the Children, Creed has the smarts to make a mark in an overcrowded field. Whether or not Creed (whose protagonistis cut from very familiar cloth) can match the sales of such writers as Mark Billingham remains to be seen.

Suffer the Children By Adam Creed


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