An engrossing thriller in which all the murder victims apparently deserve, if not their cruel fates, at least a reckoning, leaving the hero (and the reader) with a guilty sense of admiration and appreciation for the clever serial killer. Scottish novelist Banks (Canal Dreams, 1991, etc.) takes as his protagonist Edinburgh journalist Cameron Colley, who smokes too much, drinks too much, plays seriously with hard drugs, and is addicted to computer games. A mysterious informant is feeding him just enough information to get him running about the countryside trying to track down a major story that shimmers enticingly just beyond his grasp. The stakes are raised when Colley, a not altogether likable but unfailingly interesting character, is implicated in a series of carefully planned assaults, most of them deadly and each with a message to send. Irresponsible businessmen, a pornographer, an incompetent doctor, a judge whose leniency set a convicted rapist free to strike again -- vengeance is wreaked upon them and others like them, one by one, in a series of vignettes intercut with Colley's story. Both the journalist and the chief investigator on the case become convinced that the killer is someone close to Colley, who can determine who it is if he puts his mind to it. As Colley racks his brain, a series of flashbacks lead him inevitably to the vigilante's identity and, more importantly, to revelations about his past and his personality that give the book more-than-genre substance. Certain weaknesses will bother some readers -- the revelation of the killer's identity seems not to have the dramatic impact that it should, for example -- but these are overshadowed by the intriguing central character and a cleverly devised plot. Literate and satisfying, with a very nice ending.