The Harvest of Inadequate Livesby Patrick S . Stokes 256 pages $27.50

Finn Wallace has a wanderlust that takes him from Alaska to South Africa, from the sleepy hamlet of Heath, England to the excitement of Malaga in Spain. Finn works on cruise ships—he’s proud not to have a mortgage and lives according to his own will.

Finn also rids the world of the men whom he deems “inadequate.” He kills the liars, cheats, and married men that meet him at clandestine cruising spots.The novel opens with an elegant tone recalling the adolescent years in which any- thing seems possible and the world is limit- less.Then the book grows into a travelogue as Finn discovers sex in the arms of an older, teenaged cousin, then travels, comes out, and finds the love of his life—only to lose him tragically.

He buries the body, and keeps his lover alive by occasion- ally impersonating his identity.The fact that Finn is, ostensibly, a serial killer, is not really “dropped into” the story, but is mentioned casually, as if it’s being revealed that he plays chess or collects stamps.

He does not kill all of his lovers. He has a stable relationship with a cop-turned- electrician named Raul. He recounts an escapade with a pair of Dutch boys whom he describes as having “left a sour taste in my mouth.” As the book came to an end, however, I had to wonder: what is Finn’s motivation for his savagery?

He kills to put the “inadequate” in their place, just as the vestiges of the British class system put him in his place back in his hometown of Heath.

He describes one murder thusly:“The ridding occurred in Venice alongside a nondescript waterway that stank of Italian sew- age, more so now, I pondered as we sailed for Croatia.” Yet Finn, desperate for funds, works as a prostitute, claiming those that work nine to five are the real prostitutes.

Although the comparison will inevitably be made, The Harvest of Inadequate Lives is not The Talented Mr. Ripley.The similarities end with Finn’s love of travel and his masquerading as his late lover. Ripley kills the men that he loves when they become inconvenient, whereas Finn kills the cheaters and—for lack of a better word—the bastards he encounters.

It is easier, therefore, to like Finn and his murderous nature.