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Top 5 Books set in Edinburgh, Scotland

This list is inspired in part by my current reading of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and partly by a course I undertook in the third year of my undergraduate degree (which I finally feel ready to start reflecting back on). Oh and also it’s Burns Nights so this is my contribution to being patriotic…


  1. Complicity: Iain Banks

Although better known for The Wasp Factory and, in some circles, his science fiction this is my personal favourite of Banks’s novels (possibly because I overdid TWP when writing my dissertation, that’s a story for another day). Complicity is darkly humorous and often distinctly disturbing. However, the characterisation is phenomenal, the twists and turns unforgiving and the plot utterly engaging. If you didn’t think you’d enjoy a novel narrated by a speed addicted journalist modelling himself on Hunter S. Thompson then I’m here to throw this at you and let you prove yourself wrong.


  1. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: Muriel Spark

Well this could hardly be further removed from most of the novels on this list but it’s still brilliant. Spark’s teeny tiny novel is so intricately woven into the city’s geography that you could almost use it as a map. Miss Brodie’s confidence moves slowly from admirable to concerning as her students grow around her, desperately attempting to emulate her.


  1. Trainspotting: Irvine Welsh

Really not a terribly inspired choice but I really love Trainspotting. The stories that litter the pages are significantly more visceral, and imho more moving, than anything depicted on film. Having said that I’ve heard from multiple sources, especially from non-Scots, that the language is a barrier to enjoyment and if you are starting to struggle with the incredibly thick vernacular then the film is a great jumping off point.


  1. Basically any Rebus novel ever (starting with Knots and Crosses): Ian Rankin

This is a massive cheat but honestly if you enjoy one you’ll like them all. I’m currently getting to relive the joy of discovering the curmudgeonly Edinburgh policeman John Rebus as my mum has been burning through the series at a rate of knots. Whether you’d prefer the vintage feel of the early books where no one has a mobile phone or the more modern ones should probably dictate where you start. Having said that growing old with Rebus is certainly enjoyable and starting at the beginning does have an undeniable logic to it.


  1. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox: Maggie O’Farrell

I’m not finished yet so this book might let me down but so far it’s a definite contender for this list. Check back in a week or so once I’ve finished and written a review to see if it lives up to my expectations…


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