An author of crime fiction, he is best known for his Inspector Rebus books. His numerous literary honors include the Edgar Award, the CWA Gold Dagger, and the Grand Prix du Roman Noir.
He graduated from the University of Edinburgh and went on to publish his first novel, The Flood, in 1986.
For his literary accomplishments, he received an Order of the British Empire designation in 2002.
He appeared on writer/chef Anthony Bourdain's TV series No Reservations.