At the start of the book, the central character, Stewart Gilmore, is standing on the parapet of a bridge in Scotland, apparently considering whether to jump off. Stewart also narrates the story, explaining how he has returned to his hometown of Stonemouth to attend a funeral. However, Stonemouth is run by gangsters and he has to request permission just to return.
What follows is a series of flashbacks to Stewart's youth in Stonemouth, growing up with his friends and his love interest, Ellie, as well as a narrative that recounts events taking place in the present. The flashbacks are all very poignant, and occasionally shocking, particularly the account of one of Stewart's friends dying during a game. The story moves along slowly, and for most of the book nothing much happens, with the main focus being on Stewart meeting his old gang again and also confronting Ellie, who he split up with many years ago. There is also an issue with the recent, suspicious, death of Stewart's friend Callum, and throughout the book the precise circumstances unravel.
There are also some incredibly violent moments in the book, particularly the story's climactic scene, but one of the best bits about this book was the relationship between Stewart and Ellie; the book does a good job of conveying the tension between the characters and the feelings that her family have, but you also sense that they still have romantic feelings for each other, which makes the reader hope that they have some sort of future.
Stonemouth is one of Iain Banks' last books, because he is now dying of terminal cancer, but I found this to be a very profoundly-written, and satisfying book.
Next book: Underground Overground by Andrew Martin