The Angel Collector
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Towards the end of Rai’s novel the action shifts to a derelict Scottish farmhouse which Jit, the teenage narrator, describes as smelling ‘of grit and dirt and faeces’. It is a description which – not too disrespectfully, one hopes – might be applied to the novel itself, the ‘grit and dirt’ being a fair summary of its overall raw, sleazy atmosphere and the ‘faeces’ an allusion to its repeated fondness for the word’s more succinct, four-letter equivalent. (This, incidentally, is part of the generous spattering of other such monosyllabic felicities as ‘tits’, ‘arse’, ‘slag’, ‘knob’, ‘piss’, ‘balls’ and, of course, the most popular noun/verb – and its various derivations – in all such lexicons.) Such linguistic richness apart, the novel offers a narrative in which Sophie, a teenager still missing some eight weeks after disappearing at a music festival, is pursued by Jit, a former classmate who had been deeply in love with her. The chase takes him from their native Leicester, via Birmingham, London and Newcastle, to Scotland, where a totally demented racist and his disciples are indulging in some very murky and grisly practices. Their aim, it seems, is nothing less than to save the white race (to which Sophie belongs) from extinction by the others (to whom Jit belongs), but their madness has to contend with Jit’s obsessive doggedness, resulting in a struggle which, in spite of some risibly melodramatic episodes and a far too predictable twist in the denouement, has undoubtedly some pertinent insights into contemporary urban Britain and the tensions of its disaffected youth and their very strange parents.