Genre: Scottish Fiction, Thriller
Narrative Style: First person narrator interspersed with second person descriptions of murders. Largely chronological with some flashbacks.
Synopsis: Cameron Colley is a drug and drink addled journalist with an obsession with a series of murders that happened a few years ago. He thinks he might have a lead from an inside source. However, when the police start to investigate his movements, he realises that the murderer might be closer to home than he thought.
Reading challenges: TBR Pile Challenge.
Time on Shelf: about four years. I must admit I was avoiding this one because the last two Iain Banks that I read (Whit and A Song of Stone) were disappointing. Banks has written some amazing books but also some that I really don’t rate so I kept putting off reading this one.
This is the sort of book I love. Sex, violence, a completely bitter and fucked up narrator and a story line that races along at a serious pace; I couldn’t put it down. This is the sort of book that Banks excels at writing. Cameron Colley is cynical and politically knowledgeable but too destroyed by drugs and drink to do anything about it. When he starts to get tip-offs about a series of murders from a few years earlier, he thinks his journalistic time has come.
It was easy to take to Cameron. While he was lazy, addled and unreliable, he was also funny and intelligent. His voice was totally believable. When he is picked up by the police for the murders he thinks he has been investigating, you feel sympathetic towards him and know, for all his faults, that it can’t have been him.
Without revealing the actual murderer until quite near the end, Banks lays a lot of clues, a lot of which were red herrings. I’m not ashamed to admit that I thought I had this solved quite early on, only to realise that I had been taken in by a very clever writer.
After the revelation of the murderer and the secret that he and Cameron share, the pace does slow a little bit but there is still the tension as to whether Cameron betray this person one more time. Cameron also has to face his own complicity in this story and the personal lives of those around him. It is interesting the way that Banks weaves personal and political complicity and responsibility. In the end, Cameron decides (I assume) that he is already complicit and so avoids one last betrayal.
The ending of this book was quite poignant and sadder than I expected although there were hints throughout the book of Cameron’s ill health. There is an interesting parallel with the computer game he is obsessed with named Despot. At the start, in the game, Cameron is master of all civilization and nothing can stand in his way. By the end of the book, all is in ruin, both in life and in the game.
So, a very enjoyable journey. In fact, the best fiction I have read so far this year.