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Small MG logoComplicity
Iain Banks
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REVIEW Rating: 4 (Very good)
Cameron Colley is a Scottish newspaper reporter, with a casual attitude toward life and a deep commitment to his profession. Addicted to cigarettes, speed, and computer games, he frequently prays to "St. Hunter" (Thompson), and his motto is "Cover the story!", at least when he's feeling sharp. As the story begins, Colley gets a series of disturbing phone calls from an anonymous informant who can never stay on the phone long enough to tell him very much, but hints at arms-sale conspiracies and mysterious deaths.

Interleaved with the sections that acquaint us with Colley are sections that describe extremely macabre and violent assaults from the point of view of an unnamed assailant, but told (oddly enough) in the second person. ("You hear the first faint distant screams just as you take the bike's key from your pocket. You feel suddenly elated"). These attacks turn out to be savage punishments that very cleverly fit "crimes" committed by the victims. I won't tell you how an arms dealer, a pornographer, and an over-lenient judge are dealt with, but each attack is nasty in the extreme and punningly appropriate.

I'm reluctant to reveal too much of this fine plot, but I can say that the two independent strands begin to merge as it becomes clear that Colley's informant knows a lot about these crimes, and also as the police realize that all of the victims were named long ago in a out-of-control editorial by none other than Cameron Colley. I thought hard as I read to try to unravel the plot's puzzle, but Banks kept one step ahead of me to the end.

The mood here is hip, clever, somewhat druggy, cynical but bright, and both Banks and his character are very funny throughout; fans of both Hunter Thompson and Martin Amis are especially encouraged to try this one. Complicity was just published in the U.S. in 1995, and is the only of his mysteries that is in print here at the moment. Banks is one of several very talented young British authors that deserves a wider audience in the States.

Reviewer: TC


Further reading
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) by Hunter S. Thompson
The classic of gonzo journalism.
Fear and Loathing: the strange and terrible saga of Hunter S. Thompson (1992) by Paul Perry
Saint Hunter's life is as colorful and squalid as one would imagine.
Trainspotting (1996) by Irvine Welsh
Drugs, nihilism, Scotland, and a creeping sense of life-affirmingness anyway.
Summary information
Main character name:
Cameron Colley
Year published: 1993
Time period: 1990's
Subgenres: Serial killer, Private eye
Setting: UK(Scotland)

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5 - Superb76
4 - Very good33
3 - Good9
2 - Mediocre5
1 - Poor6

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Revised July 6, 1999