His last novel concerned a Scottish-run slave plantation in Barbados, so a gritty crime novel set in Glasgow was an unexpected move for Chris Dolan, especially as crime novelists are hardly thin on the ground in contemporary Scotland.

His protagonist is, though, a little out of the ordinary. Maddy Shannon is neither police officer nor private detective, but a lawyer working at the Procurator Fiscal's office who feels compelled to get ever more deeply involved in a murder investigation, indulged by the tolerant Detective Inspector Alan Coulter.

Dolan hits the ground running, a lyrical and literate writer turning blunt and hard-boiled when the occasion demands, and setting up a momentum that carries this thriller through to its final act. He begins with the discovery of two teenage boys in Kelvingrove Park, each shot through the head, execution-style, and each with deep gouges scored across his mouth. A girl of similar age is later found, also shot in the head, in a back garden in Bearsden. The investigation subsequently expands to include a similar wave of murders in New York, a former IRA sniper and a subculture of adult websites.

The original Potter's Field is a graveyard in New York filled with anonymous paupers, and this book is largely about neglect - not just institutional failure but a society-wide collapse of compassion. Dolan's novel encompasses both the children of deprived housing estates and the do-gooders who purport to be acting in their interest.

In the midst of all this, Maddy Shannon is somewhat adrift. It's not as if she doesn't have strong roots. In fact, the author emphasises her Catholic-heavy joint Italian and Irish ancestry, interspersing the main narrative with flashbacks to her great-grandparents' emigration to Scotland. But Maddy, agnostic and living alone, badly needs an anchor that family and religion are failing to provide.

Strong on both character and atmosphere, Potter's Field casts an intelligent eye over a murky, labyrinthine world whose paths are strewn with red herrings. While it fits comfortably alongside Tartan noir, Dolan's concerns and approach make it distinctively his own. And, as seems almost obligatory, he's kept the door open for a sequel, should he wish to pass this way again.