Book twenty-six: Complicity by Iain Banks

I realise that I've lost some of the drama by posting books 25 and 26 so close together but it can't be helped. I started Complicity on the way back from Paris and finished it yesterday morning, even though I still hadn't had time to write up book 25. Anyway, it's done. Twenty-six books completed with two weeks remaining in the year. I could be a show-off and try to squeeze in book twenty-seven but I'm not going to. The next couple of weeks will be busy enough and I want to start fresh on January 1.

I've read a few of Iain Banks' sci-fi novels, which he writes as Iain M Banks, but this was the first of his 'straight' novels that I've read and I really enjoyed it.

Complicity is a superior thriller. For me, the difference between mass-market fiction and literary fiction is that the former is concerned with people doing things, while the latter is about what it's like to be a person doing a thing. By that measure Complicity is firmly in the literary fiction bracket. It's the story of a journalist, Cameron Colley, who finds himself caught up in a series of murders. He's looking into the deaths of several powerful men a few years earlier only to find that he is a suspect in a series of murders that are going on now.

Banks uses this set-up to study guilt and power. It's everywhere through the novel, from the Civilisation-esque PC game, Despot, that Colley plays, to the S&M explorations in his affair with a married college friend. (Incidentally, Banks admitted earlier this year that his next novel would be delayed because he had become addicted to Civilisation.)

He takes the same themes from the personal level to the political level. Cameron spent time as a Gulf War reporter, his friend Andy served in the Falklands and one of the murder victims is an arms dealer. All three have their perspectives on guilt and power. All three are complicit in society's ills.

The identity of the killer seemed obvious to me from about halfway through. I'm not sure whether Banks intended the reader to figure things out at that point or whether I got lucky but, either way, it doesn't affect the enjoyment of the book. Banks uses the mystery to draw you in to the book in the first third but it quickly outlives its usefulness.

A quick read, well-written and highly enjoyable. A good way to finish the year.