Stonemouth is a stuffy small Scottish town, dominated by two competing, although not hostile, local gangster families. This is where the unbelievably annoying, egocentric and know-it-all protagonist, Stewart Gilmour, returns to attend the funeral of the old head of one of these families and to, unintentionally but inevitably, shake things up.
Iain Banks creates a haunting atmosphere of nostalgia, anxiety and suspense. His writing is perceptive and delightfully detailed, sprinkled with a dab of black humour and sarcasm and it really got me hooked from page one. I loved how everything felt gloomy and moist the Scottish way and as the narrative unfolded, the psychological strain got crazy.
Speaking of the narrative, it’s a very well written elegy on personal traumas, guilt, lust and hindsight. And sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in a way. And I found it to be straightforward, completely believable and somewhat expected actually.
Overall, a well thought of, albeit typical crime thriller, with what turned out to be an ok mystery to be solved, and which was not ridiculously difficult to predict where it was going. I am definitely not the biggest fan of mystery fiction, and I figured it out with reasonable accuracy.
Hats off for the genuinely good fun, solid writing, even though I’m not awestruck by the story. I can’t think of anyone not enjoying reading Stonemouth on a rainy weekend, but because Iain Banks was so talented, I’m not buying he was aiming for a lot higher than that. Not with this novel.