Book Review: Stonemouth By Iain Banks

Jean-Paul’s rating: 3/5 stars

A glossary of Scottish slang is necessary to read this book.   I highly recommend reading the e-book version of this book if you decide to read it.  Those, like me, who are not familiar with Scottish slang will be very thankful for the dictionary included with most e-readers.

This is my first exposure to Iain Banks.  I think I heard of him through reading Paul Krugman’s blog and decided to give one of his books a shot.  The only one available via e-book from the library was “Stonemouth” so I read it.

Stuart Gilmore is returning to his hometown of Stonemouth to attend a funeral after being run out of town by a mob family for an unnamed indiscretion five years ago.  The book follow his journey back and introduces us to the strange workings of a two-mob harbor town.  The Murstons, whom Stuart had pissed off, have given him permission to come back for the funeral.  Barely.  Some of the Murstons are more forgiving than others and there is a bit of a power struggle going on in their organization.  Poor Stuart.

The meat of the book is the reveal of the unnamed indiscretion and the continued fallout from said indiscretion.  It is revealed through flashbacks and reunions with friends.  The book flows really well from scene to scene.  There is a real sense that this is exactly how a reunion/funeral visit would look like for someone who had been gone for five year.  Well, without the whole mob family being pissed at you part.  But every book needs a bit of conflict, right?

This is a very solid book.  The characters are interesting and real.  The flashbacks do a good job of fleshing out the motives of the characters.  The slow reveal of the unnamed indiscretion committed by Stuart works really well.  The only real flaw is with the plot.  It’s just a little too simple and it leads to a conclusion that, while satisfying, isn’t really something you’d normally write a book about.  If you think of “Stonemouth” as a character study, you will likely enjoy it.