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Author(s): Iain Banks

Location(s): Scotland

Genre(s): Fiction

Era(s): Modern



The northern Scottish estuary burg of Stonemouth is run, gangster-style, by two families, one of which would rather Stewart Gilmour was not back on their patch. Just what the twenty-something lighting architect has done to earn the ire of the Murston clan remains unclear for quite some time – but he has been granted temporary reprieve to attend the burial of the family patriarch, Joe.

We first encounter Gilmour as he stands on the bridge that delineates entry to the town – and from which a disturbingly large number of people have committed suicide. Or should that be “suicide”? For it soon becomes obvious that anyone who crosses either the Murstons or their rivals, the MacAvetts, is dealt with sharply. Not least Gilmour himself, who is given a going over more than once.

Banks mines the same seams of dark comedy and tense horror running throughout his oeuvre, while slowly revealing how Gilmour came to be a pariah – and how he might find his way back into the affections of his former love. It is enough to say that she herself is a disaffected Murston: to reveal more would be to take away from the joy of gradual discovery. Indeed, it is not until three-quarters of the way through the book that this love turns up. Until then, Gilmour treats us to reflections on growing up in Stonemouth, allowing Banks to generate characters with empathetic depth.

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Book Reviews

Lead Review

The mythology of Stewart’s past, and of Stonemouth itself, is utterly absorbing. Addictive, funny, and brilliantly observed (Daily Mail )

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