I often see people asking for recommendations of books they can read while planning their trip to Scotland. I’m putting together a list for our guests with examples of each author on a shelf in the guest sitting room. I thought I might share it with you, so you could let me know what you’ve enjoyed and I can add them in.
I love a good crime novel. I’m mostly an audio book reader these days (it’s reading, just as Kindle reading is reading) and I find a well written crime novel can really give you a feel for a place. Of course there’s loads of inconsequential fluff (which I quite like) and series that are much better on television than on paper , but Scottish crime writers really do deliver. There are super famous ones like Ian Rankin and Val McDermid of whom I’m sure you’ve heard, so I’ve picked three you might not have come across.
If you like fast paced, witty writing intertwined with politics and social commentary (which I really do), don’t mind your books a bit sweary (which I don’t ), then you might just fall in love with Chris Brookmyre’s style. His books are mainly set in the Central Belt and you get a view of the cities and the humour. I generally raise a cynical eyebrow at books with laugh out loud hilarious in the blurb, but while listening to Quite Ugly One Morning I did in fact laugh out loud – more than once. I would respectfully recommend you avoid the television adaptation tho. There are 3 series of books featuring different protagonists; Jack Parlabane – an investigative journalist, Angelique du Xavier – a counterterrorism officer and Jasmine Sharp (private detective) & Catherine MacLeod (senior police detective). I absolutely can’t pick a favourite but I do strongly recommend you read a series in order.
nb: Chris Brookmyre is also in the band Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. My dream gig.
In contrast to Chris Brookmyre the writings of Denzil Meyrick are much more gentle. Set in the village of Kinloch on the West Coast of Scotland the books really reflect the nature of rural Scottish communities. Much of what he describes could be transplanted to any small Highland village, ours included. At first the premise of hard bitten city detective finds themselves in rural confusion might seem a little over familiar. But soon the sheer warmth of the characters wins you over and you really start to care about DCI Daley, his sergeant Brian Scott and (most of) the residents of Kinloch. I *might* have been on a long drive with tears on my cheeks whispering ‘oh poor Hamish’. I felt quite bereft when I caught up with the author and I’m really looking forward to the next in the series.
I came to Lin Anderson’s writing via the children’s books she has written with my dear friend Donald Mackay. If you have younger readers then the stories of quite the most remarkable border collies I have ever met will be a treat. But Lin’s Tartan Noir books for adults are also absolutely gripping. Forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod has a troubled past (of course she does – I think it’s a prerequisite of being the main character in pretty much every novel) . The books don’t shy away from the brutality of life so if you’re a fan of cosy crime then this is not the series for you. Lin is a wonderful storyteller and the characters life stories enrich and explain the plot rather than distract from it. Descriptions of Glasgow and the surrounding areas are excellent and there are 17 books so far in this series which will give you something to sink your teeth into.
That’s only 3 of my favourite authors. There’s Granite Noir from Stuart MacBride, the jolly rollicking adventure of DCI Jack Logan and his team by JD Kirk, set around Inverness and Fort William and currently I’m listening to a new-to me author Nicola White who will be at the Crime Writers Festival in Cromarty nest year (along with my absolute author idol Anthony Horowitz -*faints a bit*)