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Ten Great Books set in Edinburgh
3rd March 2021
Edinburgh is the latest location for us to visit in our Great Books series. Ten Great Books set in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is Scotland’s compact, hilly capital. It has a medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings. Looming over the city is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers
Yer bum’s oot the windae – Edinburgh saying (‘You are lying or exaggerating’)
A Work of Beauty by Alexander McCall Smith
“I love this city, and always shall. I write about it. I dream about it. I walk its streets and see something new each day – traces of faded lettering on the stone, still legible, but just; some facade that I have walked past before and not noticed; an unregarded doorway with the names, in brass, of those who lived there sixty years ago, the bell-pulls sometimes still in place, as if one might summon long-departed residents from their slumbers.” Edinburgh is a city of stories – a place that has witnessed everything from great historical upheavals, to the individual lives of a remarkable cast of characters. Every spire, cobblestone, bridge, close and avenue has a tale to tell. In this sumptuous new book, Alexander McCall Smith curates his own, distinctive story of Edinburgh – combining his affectionate, incisive wit with a wealth of stunning imagery drawn from Scotland’s national collection of architecture and archaeology. Through a series of photographs, maps, drawings and paintings – many never before published – he takes the reader on a unique tour. Just like the city’s architecture, the book can move in an instant from sweeping views to secret, hidden vignettes. This is a story of famous landmarks and lost buildings; the people who made them; the people who lived in them. ‘A Work of Beauty’ is an intimate portrait of a city by one of Scotland’s greatest storytellers
The Calling by Philip Caveney
A boy wakes up on a train to Edinburgh.He is shocked to discover that no idea who he is or how he came to be on the train – and once off it, he finds himself immersed in the chaos of the Edinburgh Fringe. After a day of wandering the crowded streets, he falls asleep and is woken by the sound of bells tolling midnight – only to discover that is the night of The Calling – a magical yearly event when all the statues of the city come alive. He is the only human ever to witness it. He quickly makes a couple of allies – the Colonel, the bronze cavalryman of the Scots Grey’s monument, and the intrepid explorer David Livingstone. They christen the boy ‘Ed Fest’ and take him to Parliament Square to meet Charles II, the king of the statues, who isn’t particularly fond of ‘Softies’ (humans).He assigns Sherlock Holmes to investigate the boy’s case, to discover his real identity and to get back to his home and family. But as the bronze detective begins to decipher the clues, he discovers that ‘Ed’ is on the run from a sequence of terrible events; ones that could threaten his very existence.The Calling is a magical story set during Edinburgh’s most exciting event – and nearly all of its characters can be observed, standing on plinths in the heart of the city, waiting for next year’s Calling.
Death at the Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly
The pandemic is spreading.
On Friday, three civil servants leading Virus policy hold a secret meeting at the Museum of Plagues and Pandemics. By Monday, two are dead and one is missing.
It’s up to Mona and Bernard of the Health Enforcement Team to find the missing official before panic hits the streets.
Breakers by Doug Johnstone
A toxic family … a fight for survival…
Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.
On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.
With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.
A pulsatingly tense psychological thriller, Breakers is also a breathtakingly brutal, beautiful and deeply moving story of a good kid in the wrong family, from one of Scotland’s finest crime writers.
Friends, Lovers, Chocolates by Alexander McCall Smith
Isabel Dalhousie thinks often of friends, sometimes of lovers, and on occasion of chocolate. As an Edinburgh philosopher she is certain of where she stands. She can review a book called In Praise of Sin with panache and conviction, but real life is… well, perhaps a bit more challenging – particularly when it comes to her feelings for Jamie, a younger man who should have married her niece, Cat. Jamie’s handsomeness leaves Isabel feeling distinctly uneasy, and ethically disturbed. ‘I am a philosopher’, she thinks, ‘but I am also a woman’. And more disturbance is in store. When Cat takes a break in Italy, Isabel agrees to run her delicatessen. One of the customers, she discovers, has recently had a heart transplant and is now being plagued by memories that cannot be rationally explained and which he feels do not belong to him. Isabel is intrigued. So intrigued that she finds herself rushing headlong into a dangerous investigation. But she still has time to think about the things that possess her – things like love and friendship, and, of course, temptation. The last of these comes in many forms – chocolate, for example, or seductive Italians…
Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson
No 5 in the Dandy Gilver series. Set against the back drop of the general strike in the 1920`s,Catriona McPerson has used her impeccaable research of the period detail in the world of below stairs. Dandy gets a letter from a woman stating that she knows her husband is going to kill her. The only way Dandy can talk to her is by pretending to apply for the job of lady’s maid.
Exit Music: An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin
It’s late autumn in Edinburgh and late autumn in the career of Detective Inspector Rebus. As he tries to tie up some loose ends before retirement, a murder case intrudes. A dissident Russian poet has been found dead in what looks like a mugging gone wrong. By apparent coincidence, a delegation of Russian businessmen is in town – and everyone is determined that the case should be closed quickly and clinically. But the further they dig, the more Rebus and DS Siobhan Clarke become convinced that they are dealing with something more than a random attack – especially after a particularly nasty second killing. Meanwhile, a brutal and premeditated assault on a local gangster sees Rebus in the frame. Has the Inspector taken a step too far in tying up those loose ends? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, inglorious career, will Rebus even make it that far?
Natural Causes (Inspector McLean 1) by James Oswald
A young girl’s mutilated body is discovered in a sealed room. Her remains are carefully arranged, in what seems to have been a cruel and macabre ritual, which appears to have taken place over 60 years ago.
For newly appointed Edinburgh Detective Inspector Tony McLean this baffling cold case ought to be a low priority – but he is haunted by the young victim and her grisly death.
Meanwhile, the city is horrified by a series of bloody killings. Deaths for which there appears to be neither rhyme nor reason, and which leave Edinburgh’s police at a loss.
McLean is convinced that these deaths are somehow connected to the terrible ceremonial killing of the girl, all those years ago. It is an irrational, almost supernatural theory.
And one which will lead McLean closer to the heart of a terrifying and ancient evil
On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
Four years ago, Jocelyn left her tragic past behind in the States and started over in Scotland, burying her grief, ignoring her demons, and forging ahead without attachments. Her solitary life is working well – until she moves into a new apartment on Dublin Street, where she meets a man who shakes her carefully guarded world to its core.
Braden Carmichael is used to getting what he wants, and he’s determined to get Jocelyn into his bed. Knowing how skittish she is about entering a relationship, Braden proposes an arrangement that will satisfy their intense attraction without any strings attached.
But after an intrigued Jocelyn accepts, she realizes that Braden won’t be satisfied with just mind-blowing passion. The stubborn Scotsman is intent on truly knowing her . . . down to the very soul.
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
It is the Edinburgh Festival. People queuing for a lunchtime show witness a road-rage incident – an incident which changes the lives of everyone involved. Jackson Brodie, ex-army, ex-police, ex-private detective, is also an innocent bystander – until he becomes a suspect.
With Case Histories, Kate Atkinson showed how brilliantly she could explore the crime genre and make it her own. In One Good Turn she takes her masterful plotting one step further. Like a set of Russian dolls each thread of the narrative reveals itself to be related to the last. Her Dickensian cast of characters are all looking for love or money and find it in surprising places. As ever with Atkinson what each one actually discovers is their true self.
Enjoy your literary trip to Edinburgh – and let us know in the Comments below if there are any books you would add!
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