Iain Banks - Stonemouth (3 stars)

Iain Banks - Stonemouth

The spiritual follow-up to The Crow Road is slightly flawed, but still a page-turner

(Little, Brown)

For those Iain Banks fans not overly keen on his sci-fi work, it will be a blessed relief to see no mention of a middle initial ‘M’ in his name here. For those who loved the prickly relationships and family machinations in the smalltown Scotland of The Crow Road, it’s time to crack open a fine malt. That previous book was set in Gallanach, here it’s ‘Stonemouth’, a fictional but highly recognisable locale pitched near Aberdeen.

For the lovelorn Prentice McHoan, read Stewart Gilmour, banished from his home town after betraying Ellie who just so happened to be the daughter in the scary Murston clan, all laden with troubled beauties and psychotic males. He’s now back with Papa Murston’s permission to attend a funeral, but is this merely a chance for terrible vengeance to be wreaked?

A page-turner for sure this, but there are a fair number of questions and objections raised which might distract you from the narrative’s natural flow. Would Gilmour really be willing to put himself back in the firing line simply on the reassuring word of a dangerous crimelord? In his descriptive sections, Banks can barely let a noun go by without chucking a colour before it and he throws so many subsidiary characters into the mix that you spend too much time trying to work out exactly who will be integral to the book’s central mystery.

Still, if there’s one valuable life lesson to take away from this novel it’s this: don’t let young kids go wild with cameras at a wedding and then show an uncensored selection later on a big screen. It can only lead to disaster.

Iain Banks: Stonemouth

Iain Banks discusses his new novel Stonemouth, a homecoming tale set in a small estuary town north of Aberdeen.

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