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I will say up front that this book was not at all what I was expecting, which may have affected my opinion. I had just finished "Birthdays For The Dead" by Stuart MacBride, which I enjoyed, and was hoping this book would be similarly suspenseful. It wasn't even close. From the description given I was expecting more of a mystery where the protagonist is actually in some danger. This book is about Stuart Gilmore, kind of an unlikeable guy (IMHO) who gets beat up and threatened a lot by some not-so-bright local gangsters who he offended when he cheated on their sister, his fiance, five years previously. There are a lot of flashbacks to before this incident and a lot of reminiscences with and about his old school friends, whom he mostly denigrates. One thing that makes him unsympathetic in my opinion is his justification of his infidelity by saying it's just something people do to sow their wild oats. The storyline is filled with a great many soliloquies by the narrator that turn into rants by the end of the book, mostly against Christianity and political conservatives. Toward the end of the book, when it actually gets to the reason Stuart has come back after being run out of town five years ago (to attend his former fiance's grandfather's funeral), he rants that "the minister is blethering on about the ashes to ashes, dust to dust nonsense and how the deceased is now close to God and all that bollocks..." and how he "gets embarrassed for us as a species..." and wants "to jump up and shout to the speaker "oh, f--k off or something equally guaranteed to ruin everyone's day and make myself more unpopular. Nothing's more guaranteed to bring out my inner atheist than listening to some holy-man who thinks all the answers are already there in some book whether it was written a millenium ago or last week!".
Yes, I am a Christian; however, I enjoy secular fiction and rarely get offended when an author expresses liberal and/or atheistic viewpoints. I have read many books where politically conservative or Christian characters are vilified (there seems to be a lot of them nowadays) because I realize that there are bad people in EVERY demographic. But this book is offensive on more than one level. I have read/listened to a number of books with the f-word and c-word are used. I do not get offended at the use of foul language and I am not a prude, but there are bits of dialog here where the f-bomb is LITERALLY every other word. Characters regularly refer to sex as "f---ing" and refer to each other as "c---s". The only word I can think of to describe most of the dialog in this book is "low". In fact, the whole story is pretty low.
There are parts where the main character's inner monologue just drones on and on as if the author was trying to impress us with his intellectual ability. These passages could have been significantly edited without losing any content. Or maybe I'm just too bourgeois to really get it. ;O> I badly wanted to skip ahead, but resisted, thinking I might miss something important. I was wrong and could have saved myself a lot of time and frustration by giving up, but I didn't feel I could write an accurate review if I hadn't finished the book.
A word about the reader: Peter Kenny is probably a really nice guy, but I am kind of particular about pronunciation. I know this is a bit picky and I have no idea if Mr. Kenny is a native Scot or not, but one of my biggest pet peeves is when readers pronounce the letter 'r' where there isn't one. Hearing the word 'palm' pronounced "parm" and the word 'half' as "harf" was irritating. He does this on many other words as well throughout the book. I've never heard native Scottish speakers do this, but it is quite common when English narrators attempt to read with an American accent. I don't like to criticize narrators because it cannot be easy to do what they do. Hats off to Mr. Kenny for no doubt doing his best.
I'm glad that Audible lets you return books now. Otherwise I would be kind of annoyed at having actually payed money for this book. It's definitely going back and I'll not be purchasing anymore books by Iain Banks.
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