Books set in Edinburgh was not an easy list to prepare for me. Edinburgh was the number one city I wanted to see, and I finally had the chance to visit it last week. It was more beautiful, mysterious and exciting than I’ve ever dreamed of. While walking around the city, I thought it would be an ideal setting for various books, whether a thriller or a romance.
In this list of books set in Edinburgh, you’ll find historical fiction, literary fiction, thrillers & crimes and classics. I didn’t add Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh to the list because everyone knows it is set in Edinburgh. I hope you can visit Edinburgh if you haven’t before and revisit that enchanting city with these books. Well, maybe not with the crime books. I hope you enjoy all the books set in Edinburgh.
10 Beautiful Books Set in Edinburgh
The Fanatic – James Robertson
An impressive debut from an exciting new Scottish voice – a stunning novel about history, identity and redemption. A no. 2 best-seller in Scotland.
It is Spring 1997 and Hugh Hardie needs a ghost for his Tours of Old Edinburgh. Andrew Carlin is the perfect candidate. So, with cape, stick and a plastic rat, Carlin is paid to pretend to be the spirit of Colonel Weir and to scare the tourists. But who is Colonel Weir, executed for witchcraft in 1670.
In his research, Carlin is drawn into the past, in particular to James Mitchel, the fanatic and co-congregationist of Weir’s, who was tried in 1676 for the attempted assassination of the Archbishop of St Andrews, James Sharp.
Through the story of two moments in history, ‘The Fanatic’ is an extraordinary history of Scotland. It is also the story of betrayals, witch hunts, Puritan exiles, stolen meetings, lost memories, smuggled journeys and talking mirrors which will confirm James Robertson as a distinctive and original Scottish writer. an interesting one among books set in Edinburgh.
44 Scotland Street – Alexander McCall Smith
A popular one amongbooks set in Edinburgh. The story revolves around the comings and goings at No. 44 Scotland Street, a fictitious building in a real street in Edinburgh. Immediately recognisable are the Edinburgh chartered surveyor, stalwart of the Conservative Association, who dreams of membership of Scotland’s most exclusive golf club. We have the pushy Stockbridge mother, and her prodigiously talented five-year-old son, who is making good progress with the saxophone and with his Italian. Then there is Domenica Macdonald who is that type of Edinburgh lady who sees herself as a citizen of a broader intellectual world.
In McCall Smith’s hands such characters retain charm and novelty, simultaneously arousing both mirth and empathy. 44 Scotland Street is vintage McCall Smith, tackling issues of trust and honesty, snobbery and hypocrisy, love and loss, but all with great lightness of touch. Clever, elegant and funny, this is a novel that provides huge entertainment but which is underpinned by the moral dilemmas of everyday life and the characters’ struggles to resolve them. One of the most popular books set in Edinburgh.
One Good Turn – Kate Atkinson
‘An absolute joy to read…the pleasure of One Good Turn lies in the ride, in Atkinson’s wry, unvanquished characters, her swooping, savvy, sarcastic prose and authorial joie de vivre’ Guardian
It is summer, it is the Edinburgh Festival. People queuing for a lunchtime show witness a road-rage incident – a near-homicidal attack 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 murder suspect.
As the body count mounts, each member of the teeming Dickensian cast’s story contains a kernel of the next, like a set of nesting Russian dolls. They are all looking for love or money or redemption or escape: but what each actually discovers is their own true self. For the lovers of Atkinson among books set in Edinburgh.
The Heart of Midlothian – Walter Scott
A must-read amongbooks set in Edinburgh. This novel, which has always been regarded as one of Scott’s finest, opens with the Edinburgh riots of 1736. The people of the city have been infuriated by the actions of John Porteous, Captain of the Guard, and when they hear that his death has been reprieved by the distant monarch they ignore the Queen and resolve to take their own revenge. At the centre of the story is Edinburgh’s forbidding Tolbooth prison, known by all as the Heart of Midlothian.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. A classic among books set in Edinburgh.
The Way of All Flesh – Ambrose Parry
A vivid and gripping historical crime novel set in 19th century Edinburgh, from husband-and-wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman.
Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.
Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.
Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education.
With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive. Want to read a series? This one is for you among books set in Edinburgh.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
A popular one amongbooks set in Edinburgh. Edinburgh in the 1930s. The Lennox family is having trouble with its youngest daughter. Esme is outspoken, unconventional, and repeatedly embarrasses them in polite society. Something will have to be done.
Years later, a young woman named Iris Lockhart receives a letter informing her that she has a great-aunt in a psychiatric unit who is about to be released.
Iris has never heard of Esme Lennox and the one person who should know more, her grandmother Kitty, seems unable to answer Iris’s questions. What could Esme have done to warrant a lifetime in an institution? And how is it possible for a person to be so completely erased from a family’s history? An exciting one amongbooks set in Edinburgh.
Romantic, heroic, comic and tragic, unconventional schoolmistress Jean Brodie has become an iconic figure in post-war fiction. Her glamour, unconventional ideas and manipulative charm hold dangerous sway over her girls at the Marcia Blaine Academy – ‘the crème de la crème’ – who become the Brodie ‘set’, introduced to a privileged world of adult games that they will never forget. Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was adapted into a successful stage play, and later a film directed by Ronald Neame and starring Maggie Smith. A modern classic mongbooks set in Edinburgh.
The Wages of Sin – Kaite Welsh
An irresistible mystery set in 1890s Edinburgh, Kaite Welsh’s THE WAGES OF SIN features a female medical student-turned-detective and will thrill fans of Sarah Waters and Antonia Hodgson. An exciting one amongbooks set in Edinburgh.
‘Historical fiction doesn’t get much more delicious or original’ Damian Barr
‘This powerful novel combines a disturbing look at late Victorian attitudes towards women and morality with a satisfying murder mystery’ Sunday Express
Sarah Gilchrist has fled from London to Edinburgh in disgrace and is determined to become a doctor, despite the misgivings of her family and society. As part of the University of Edinburgh’s first intake of female medical students, Sarah comes up against resistance from lecturers, her male contemporaries, and – perhaps worst of all – her fellow women, who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman…
When one of Sarah’s patients turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into Edinburgh’s dangerous underworld of bribery, brothels and body snatchers – and a confrontation with her own past. An interesting one among books set in Edinburgh.
Between Ourselves – Donald Smith
The six months that Robert Burns spent in Edinburgh, between the Aryshire years and the short-lived maturity in Dumfries, were an intense time in the life of a poet who became a Scottish hero. Burns is an icon, but he is a flawed one. The great bard was fond of drink, women and over familiar with Edinburgh’s underworld. He was often conflicted with crippling self-doubt about his talents and bitter about his place in society.
Duringhis short time in Edinburgh, Burns had dealings with the infamous Deacon Brodie; was struck by inspiration and failed by his muse; and, fell in love with two unavailable women and bedded many more than that. While never straying from accepted Burns’ history, this remarkable novel imagines the life of Burns’ in those months to discover the flesh and blood man behind the legend. For the fans of Burns among books set in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Twilight – Carole Lawrence
As a new century approaches, Edinburgh is a city divided. The wealthy residents of New Town live in comfort, while Old Town’s cobblestone streets are clotted with criminals, prostitution, and poverty.
Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton is no stranger to Edinburgh’s darkest crimes. Scarred by the mysterious fire that killed his parents, he faces his toughest case yet when a young man is found strangled in Holyrood Park.
With little evidence aside from a strange playing card found on the body, Hamilton engages the help of his aunt, a gifted photographer, and George Pearson, a librarian with a shared interest in the criminal mind. But the body count is rising. As newspapers spin tales of the “Holyrood Strangler,” panic sets in across the city. And with each victim, the murderer is getting closer to Hamilton, the one man who dares to stop him. An exciting series among books set in Edinburgh.
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Are there any books set in Edinburgh you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?