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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 1999
The fact that Iain Banks isn't more widely read in this country is almost criminal and this book just emphasizes how wrong that is. Easily one of the best books of its' year, of any year, for that matter, at first glance it seems to be a standard thriller/mystery, with the unlikable (somewhat) journalist at its core, and some weird murders. But Banks spins a plot that's so knotty you miss the obvious, like the best mysteries the solution makes you go "Why didn't I see that?" Plus his command of the language is heads and shoulders above anyone else around, the characters seem to have more than three dimensions, the flashbacks literally tingle with realism, you don't read this story as much as you're drawn into it. Fortunately it's fairly short, or you'll find yourself neglecting family and friends trying to finish it in one sitting. It's quite possible. And yes, there are some brutal moments but the scary part of it is that it's nothing worse than you'll have read in your local newspaper. And the ending is nigh perfect, as good as they come. Having read Banks' science-fiction books I wasn't sure what to expect from his "regular" fiction but except that one genre has spaceships and ray guns, there's little difference, it's the same top quality. Read anything with this guy's name on it and harass the publishers until we get more of this guy's book in this country. You'll be glad for it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 30, 2005
This is the first of Bank's non-SciFi novels that I have read. His Culture series of stories had me so roped in, I thought I would give his 'regular' fiction a try...I was not disappointed.

This is an action packed thriller that keeps changing the reader's perspective from a crusading Scottish journalist (who is man with a number of flaws!). When describing the killer's actions, he keeps using 2nd person - such as 'You open the door' or 'You disarm the alarm'. So you are along for the ride in the passenger seat for each graphic misadventure.

I was quickly engaged by the characters, who are all well thought out. The main character is like an onion, with surprise after surprise becoming aparent as the layers are peeled back.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2004
This is a presentation of an alternative moral viewpoint but wrapped up as a murder-mystery. As a murder mystery it's entertaining though not brilliant. As a pointer to alternative views of our Western society it is thought provoking.

It's not a novel for people with weak stomachs. The murders are gruesome, a characteristic of Banks writing, though the violence is not gratuitous; it's there for a reason. Nor is it for those who suffer nightmares easily. It is certainly not for those who accept what authority, be it legal, religious or moral, tells us to think.

It is a novel for those who are prepared to think what mainstream society believes unthinkable. It's a novel that provokes thought about the inequitable, brutal, and irrational culture that Western society has become. For those with an open, enquiring and above all a suspicious mind this will add fuel to any distrust of authority.

Don't expect to be uplifted, this is as dark as it gets, but then that's how the world is turning out. Read it and think..... while you're still allowed to.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2002
I have just read Banks' novels A Song Of Stone and Complicity back-to-back. It hasn't been an especially pleasant experience; A Song of Stone is a pretentious, mean-spirited, violent, and not especially well-written book, and this one is mean-spirited and violent, and not especially well written either. At least it isn't pretentious.
Here we have a reprobate, lefty Scottish hack who is unwittingly drawn into the police inquiry into a serial killer, when Inspector Knacker realises that the victims were all named in a single article written by the journalist a number of years previously. It's a frame up, Guv - or is it? Banks has a bob each way for about half the novel; cunningly (or tiresomely, depending on how you look at it) adopting the second person singular voice when recounting the grisly deeds of the murderer (and they are recounted in graphic detail: the squeamish should take the next exit and follow the signs back to Helen Fielding), but all the while else writing from Colley's first person perspective. So does Colley know the killer? Is it Colley himself? Is he an accomplice? Maybe he's schizophrenic! Surely, Iain Banks wouldn't stoop to such a level...
And nor - I think - does he. The split narration a pretty neat device for creating suspense, but rather than stringing it out, Banks changes tack mid way through and reveals the killer's identity, at which point the second person singular narratives stop, and a pretty convoluted back-story emerges, involving, as is seemingly inevitable in Banks' fiction, unpleasant childhood flashbacks.
This in turn gives perspective to the political/moral issues which gallivant throughout the book, but which are finally bludgeoned to death in a very poor denouement, in which Banks contrives to put his two main protagonists in a bunker on an island arguing intently about the rights and wrongs of the situation. Banks' writing, usually deft at handling this sort of situation, steers like a cow on this occasion.
All is ultimately thrown into confusion again in the final couple of pages with the reintroduction of the second person narrative voice, previously only associated with the Killer. So was it Colley all along? Beats me. Hard on the heels of the obnoxious Pol Sci 101 lecture in from the bunker, I really didn't care.
For all this, Complicity has had some (questionable) literary influence though: Irvine Welsh's protagonist DS Bruce Robertson in his genuinely dire novel, Filth, is heavily indebted to Cameron Colley - it's difficult to see Welsh devising a boozing, drug-doing, sex mad hypocritical Scotsman harbouring an internal parasite without having seen this first. Which makes Welsh's achievement all the more paltry.
On the other hand, I think Banks owes a debt of gratitude to Thomas Harris - there is a distinctly Lecterish feel to the machinations of the Serial Killer.
In summary, this is not as great a book as some would have you believe: Banks' style is refreshingly different at first, but when - as I just have - you read a couple of them back to back, the tricks in his magician's bag begin to reveal themselves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2003
Cameron Colley is an Edinburgh-based journalist with a habit for speed (both drug and motion), an obsession for computer games, and a highly developed sense of moral outrage. As a journalist, he worships the patron of all gonzos, St. Hunter S. Thompson, and his righteous indignation is expressed in print as exposes on cheap liquor, defense boondoggles, and inept judges. Of course Cameron is not without sin--no self respecting protagonist could be--and his is an adulterous affair and an abuse of substances. But he is a likable enough rogue that it would be hard to suspect him of a string of grisly revenge murders against a host of wealthy capitalists and political powermongers. We, however, get to see the story from his point-of-view, and the police don't.
Iain Banks is one of my favorite authors, someone I truly admire for his ability to switch between genres like a chameleon changes colors. Under Iain M. Banks, he writes adventure-based science fiction that not only entertains, but usually has a moral underpinning. Without the middle initial, his books are variously mystery, thriller, or mainstream, always good, always interesting. If Banks was not so popular with other readers, I would likely have created a biopage for him similar to the one I did for Jonathan Carroll. But Carroll is a cult writer while Banks has been recognized in England as one of their best and brightest by almost every body politic. The result is that he has quite a presence of fans available to keep his name on the net and his books out of the mid-list...
To return to Complicity, it is a novel that is not without faults, although what one person might see as problematic another might have no difficulty with. For example, the beginning of each early chapter has a crime described in second person. Some people might be a little squeamish about phrases like "you hit him on the head with the tyre iron, and it sounds like egsshells cracking" (my words--this phrase doesn't actually appear). The sexual references are not for prudes, and, while not truly glorified, drug use is not condemned, and that does not sit well with some people either. For those with strong stomachs ant open minds, Complicity is a fine novel that is well worth your time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2003
This is one of Banks's non-science-fiction books. (thus no middle initial) It's a murder mystery starring an investigative reporter. The reporter starts out with an anonymous tipster leading him into a government scandal, and ends up the center of a murder investigation. There are twists, turns, and the wonderfully erratic/eccentric characters that Banks likes to use with the skill that he uses them, and it's a good read. Not my favorite work of his, but I'm biased -- I like the SF stuff better. It's older too -- 1993 first pub, available here (here=US) only since 2002. Good, fun, entertaining, engaging stuff. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 1999
Iain Banks - you've done it again. Take this book home and if you are a person willing to ride the wave of conspiracy, murder and exacting revenge - this is the story for you. We are introduced to a self-obsessed, depressive and slightly intriguing Scottish Journalist, who is on the highlands newspaper squad. Immediately, and soon into the book, we can see that this poor Hack has a difficult story coming up. Someone is giving leads, tips and ideas that suggest trouble is brewing. Step further into the book and you have a cleverly YOU vs ME narrative. If read with full attention, you are drawn into the novel and experience a certain disturbing "I am there" feeling. The pace is excellent, and Bank's ease with mod cons combined with thrilling storytelling provides a "can't put it down" scenario. The ending is slightly predictable, which lets the novel down, but it is still an exciting climax. There are moral questions throughout and the author paints a frank picture, leaving no controversial moment to our own imagination. This book confirms Bank's place in history as a truly remarkable author. Enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2014
I have read all of Iain Banks' books and I read this book when it was first published in 1993.

This novel is perhaps the most predictable of Iain Banks novels since it is a tale a serial killer, and was published very much in the era of Silence of the Lambs.

Complicity tells two tales one of Cameron Colley, a journalist on a Scottish newspaper called The Caledonian, and in chasing after a 'scoop' finds himself drawn to strange locations all over Scotland.

The second story is of a number of horrific murders, and while I do not want to say much of the plot, inevitably these two tales wrap around each other like snakes and come to a common and unexpected conclusion.

This is a very good serial killer story and the murders are creative but never overly gruesome or horrific to read about. It has a really good twist in the tale which makes you go 'hah!' and really sit up and pay attention as to how the book resolves itself.

I have read it several times, and have always been compelled from the front cover to the back page, so highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 1999
The first non SF Banks book I read, it contains all the ingredients of a classic thriller; Corruption, several brutal murders, and a flawed central character with a sense of alienation. In common with his other work, of both genres, it illuminates the dark side of peoples's consciousness whilst exploring their emmotional frailties. Unique humour, blended with tragic and macabre circumstances, has become a hallmark of Banks' work. Comic highlights include the apparent house break-in, resembling the previous murders, that transpires to be Cameron Collie's on-going sado-masochistic relationship with his friend's wife, and throughout the novel his attitudes to just about everyone he meets. The eventual unmasking of the killer is both shocking and thought provoking and leads to a gripping conclusion that leaves the reader feeling both entertained and satisfied.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 1998
I regard this as the best of all Banks' books bar Use of Weapons and The Bridge. This was the first novel of his that I read and it hooked me from the start. At times it's horrifying, not only in its depictions of the "Red Avenger's" brutal murders and assaults, but more sinisterly in the way the reader is encouraged to almost rejoice in these deaths - the men involved deserve it. Or do they? Banks does not entirely agree with his murderer's actions. It's one thing to fantasise but another to act out your fantasies. Alleviating the gloom and the horror, at least in the first half of the novel, is a demonic sense of humour, gleefully savaging Tories (only metaphorically here) in particular. Appropriately the humour dries up as the full implications of the murders and their effect on the protagonist are gradually revealed. The conclusion is a real sickener, offering no hope or redemption; a perfect denouement for a thoroughly disturbing, shocking and yet perversely entertaining novel.
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