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VINE VOICEon 21 January 2005
Cameron Colley is one of the most loathsome heroes ever to grace a crime novel. Fortunately, it's the self-obsessed, substance abusing, kinky sex indulging, life-in-the-fast-lane attitude of this book's narrator which makes "Complicity" an un-put-downable read. Its combination of relentless pace and continual moral ambiguity mean that this is not a book for the faint-hearted. A host of truly gruesome characters meet truly gruesome, stomach churningly violent, deaths. Sordid secrets are revelled in. But like all Iain Banks' best works, the heart of this book is a mystery story so compelling that the book is practically un-put-downable. If you're a Banks fan, in some ways this book is the pinnacle of his cynicism and a brilliant example of his gift for telling a compelling story. If you're a devotee of crime novels, this is the ultimate whodunnit for the fag-end of the 20th century. If you like exploring deep questions of personal and social morality, there's more than enough subtext in this book to keep you philosophising for weeks. My only criticism is the total lack of subtlety. Banks can do subtle, as "The Crow Road" and "Whit" prove. He chose not to in this opus. But I'll let the reader decide whether the book loses by it, or gains.
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on 26 March 1999
If you want to read a gripping novel, but something rather more substantial than your John Grisham's etc, then Complicity is the book. Banks has rapidly become my favourite author, and Coplicity is exceptionally well written, most similar in tone, perhaps, to The Wasp Factory but radically different in terms of the plot. Mostly in the present-tense and swapping between first and second-person narratives for reasons that become clear near the end. The lead character is one of the most fully-rounded and convincing who's head I've ever been allowed inside. They're making this into a film at the moment, which probably won't be anything like as good, so I strongly recommend you to buy the book as soon as possible.
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on 25 April 2011
Being honest, I didn't expect to enjoy this book so no-one was more surprised than me when, once past the hundred page mark, I read the rest in one sitting.

Iain Banks's dark nineties characters are not my usual cup of tea and to begin with I felt a datedness to the story that seemed awkward. I am, however, well attuned to the Scottish psyche and this is something that Banks does so well that soon I no longer noticed or was even put off by the nineties backdrop - or the graphic violence and even more (porno)graphic exploits of our nineties protagonist, Cameron.

For anyone that struggles with this - the plot really kicks in at about page 150 and after this it all just flows effortlessly. I found that this book really engaged and challenged my mind - made think that I'd been reading little more than white bread sandwiches for months. Now what do I read next?
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on 14 June 2013
I hope nobody judges Scotland by this book. It's unconvincing & gratuitously violent & sexual. A potboiler. 2 rather than 1 star as at least I finished it.
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on 8 March 2010
Being a new reader of Iain Banks, I tried to make the first one I read, one of his most acclaimed books and for good reason. I have just finished the book and enjoyed it immensely. I like Jonathon Coe books and this didn't disappoint as a comparison to some of Coe's wonderfully writhing plots, replete with chicanery, sanguinary acts of violence and dark, macarbre humour. The plot was wonderfully paced and the characters engaging. The violence was gruesome and disturbing at times but never gratuitous, and never violence for the sake of violence, and always with enough black humour to induce a guilty laugh at, what in essence shouldn't really be laughter inducing. If you're new to Banks, as I was, make this the first one!
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on 2 March 2004
This was my first Iain Banks novel, and remains my favourite. Whilst reviews often state The Crow Road as his best (and it is very good by the way), I just love the anti-hero central character in this one.
The writing is superb, and the pace of the novel is spot on. The story will get you hooked from page one. As a previous review has stated, the use of first person narrative to describe the murders / assaults really puts you slap bang in the middle of the book, and creates an excellent mental atmosphere.
There are some very graphic moments in this book, particularly in the first person sections, but they are not done all "Hollywood" - they are very well crafted and factual - almost without emotion, and this actually adds to the overall effect.
This is a very good book by an outstanding author.
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on 4 March 2014
How this descriptive writing can appeal beggars belief but the author is very skilled at it.and it might please some.
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on 28 December 2014
After The Wasp Factory much was expected of this author, a book that really blew me away, how could he top that? Well, he couldn’t, of course. I tried The Bridge and wasn’t that impressed. However, I picked Complicity up in a charity shop, and he pleased me once again. Nothing if not prolific, I’ve read Banks without the M, and with it, and I think I prefer him without it. Granted that his genre-busting first book cannot be bettered, he has embraced the thriller several times now, and this one is lively, entertaining, morally challenging and a downright excellent read.

Unpleasant people are being killed in highly unpleasant ways and we don’t find out who the murderer is (not that he murders all of them), until the end. The book exudes some very fine writing. He nails the Thatcher experiment, for example in a particularly strong piece of well characterised semi-journalism:

“Here we are and we’ve had our experiment; there’s been one party, one dominant idea, one fully followed plan, one strong leader – and her grey shadow (John Major I presume) – and it’s all turned to s*** and ashes. Industrial base cut so close to the bone the marrow’s leaking out, the old vaguely socialist inefficiencies replaced with more rabid capitalist ones, power centralised, corruption institutionalised, and a generation created which’ll never have any skills beyond opening a car door with a coat hanger and knowing which solvents give you the best buzz with a plastic bag over your head before you throw up or pass out…”

Not that the average reader will agree with everything – the murder solution is a very bad idea, but all of the ideas are extreme on a continuum, of course. And I found myself giving half a cheer while guiltily knowing that I was desperately, undisputedly wrong to do so. It is rare to find a political and moral stance against that which would wipe out some of the bad people who pretend to lead us right into the traps they have configured especially for us. To cut it short, I’ll just say I liked the sentiments – they gave me a welcome jolt.

This is a very good, very exciting and provoking book. I will definitely look out for more from this excellent writer.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 29 July 2012
The central character of this book is Cameron Colley, a journalist on an Edinburgh daily, who often clashes with the editor for using his articles to attack dishonesty of various sorts, particularly when it concerns `the great and the good' and big business. Cameron drinks heavily, is a regular drug taker, and is friends with Yvonne and her husband, whom he met at university. He also has an ongoing sadomasochistic sexual relationship with Yvonne. His other close friend is Andy, who Cameron has known since they were young boys (there are flashbacks describing their early life together). Andy was a decorated Army officer and afterwards a successful businessman, but following the death of his sister at a young age, he bought a semi-derelict hotel in a remote location in the Highlands, where he lives alone, also drinking heavily and regularly using drugs.

Cameron longs to write a great story and his chance seems to come when he receives a series of mysterious phone calls from a man who gradually tells him the names of several men who died some years earlier, all of who appear to have been connected in some way to the nuclear industry. The caller implies that there is a deep conspiracy to be uncovered involving the security services. However, while checking out these deaths, Cameron becomes aware that the police are investigating a current series of gruesome murders of people of influence. He is disturbed when the police reveal that the victims have been the subjects of critical articles he has written, and other circumstantial evidence also points to his involvement. Then another murder is discovered. The victim is believed to be Andy, who is found burned to death in his hotel. We then enter an uncertain world. Is Cameron really the killer, and if so does he even know that he is; or is someone cleverly setting him up for the murders, and if so why?

Cameron tries to investigate what appears to be a very devious and disturbed serial killer, but does not get far before he is arrested. He is about to be charged with all the murders when ghosts from the distant past arise in his mind and things begin to fall into place. He realizes that half-forgotten events from long ago are at the root of the killings and who is responsible. He manages to convince the police of his suspicions and is released, but not before three more murders are committed that prove his story. In the final scene he confronts the murderer, who explains his motives as a sort of moral crusade to cleanse the world of evildoers. He leaves without harming Cameron, and at the close the killer is still at large.

This is a dark, bleak book, full of morally ambiguous characters, extreme violence (the killings are graphically described in the first person by the killer as they occur) and a clever rapidly changing plot. I found it gripping from start to finish.
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on 4 August 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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