Recommendations for (urban fantasy?) novels set in Edinburgh
August 1, 2018 6:45 AM   Subscribe

I really enjoyed reading Neverwhere, Kraken, and The Laundry Files when I was living in London. Now I'm in Edinburgh, what should I read to get a sense of a hidden world just under the surface of familiar streets?

It doesn't need to be urban fantasy in particular, just books that give a sense of hidden worlds, cabals, or secret dealings that are just out of my sight as I walk around the city.

Edinburgh is a much smaller city than London, but it's touristy and picturesque enough that I think there must be something!
posted by metaBugs to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if this would be your jam, but I've been on a kick of pulpy murder mysteries lately and I read the two books in this series and I found them to be enjoyable.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:28 AM on August 1, 2018

Alexander McCall Smith has two series set in Edinburgh: the 44 Scotland Street series and The Sunday Philosophy Club series (also known as Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries). I have only read a couple of these, both from The Sunday Philosophy Club, but McCall Smith likes to include lots of details about his characters' environs.
posted by ubiquity at 7:50 AM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ian Rankin writes crime novels set in Edinburgh. (They are a little too gritty for my tastes, but it was fun to wander through Fleshmarket Close and then pick up his novel of the same name.)
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:56 AM on August 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

The third Jackson Brodie novel takes place in Edinburgh, and I find the whole series delightful.
posted by missrachael at 8:13 AM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Chris(topher) Brookmyre writes crime novels, often set in Scotland and especially Edinburgh. He's typically been less gritty and more humorous than Rankin and has a clear leftward political lean. He is getting grittier though.

He has a new one out this month that is his first historical novel (with a co-author, Dr Marisa Haetzman, under the name Ambrose Parry) and which looks to be set in Edinburgh.
posted by biffa at 8:49 AM on August 1, 2018

Charlie Stross has a couple of books set in Edinburgh, too. Halting State and Rule 34.
posted by corvine at 8:56 AM on August 1, 2018

Trainspotting, of course, though I guess you knew that already.
A few of Ken Macleod's books feature Edinburgh, The Night Sessions and parts of the Fall Revolution trilogy if I remember correctly.
Sir Walter Scott's novels also frequently feature Edinburgh.
Jekyll and Hyde is commonly thought to be based on Edinburgh's Deacon Brodie.
Other literature and Edinburgh adjacent places include the Hawes Inn in South Queensferry, which featured in Stevenson's "Kidnapped", conveniently alongside the Forth Bridge which is the earthly inspiration for Iain Banks' The Bridge
There is also an Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour if you would like more inspiration
posted by Jakey at 3:22 PM on August 1, 2018

There is a very weird 1824 Scottish novel called The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner which begins in Edinburgh though it ends elsewhere. It's creepy, especially the end bit, the 'editor's narrative', and it's a take off of Calvinism.
posted by glasseyes at 4:20 PM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

The McLevy mysteries are a radio series based on the experiences of an actual nineteenth-century police detective in Edinburgh; you could try the first of the associated novels, The Shadow of the Serpent.

In historical fiction, you might like Doubting Thomas, by Heather Richardson.

In non-fiction, I think you'd like The Town Below the Ground: Edinburgh's Legendary Underground City.

Another crime novel: The Strings of Murder, by Oscar de Muriel.

And another: Blood in the Water by Alice Rice.

And not really a crime story, despite the title - the dark novel The Existential Detective by Alice Thompson.

And someone recommended to me A Fine House in Trinity, which I haven't read, but sounds like it might meet your criteria.
posted by paduasoy at 5:02 PM on August 1, 2018

Came back to say, following biffa's comment, that I've just seen a review of the Ambrose Parry book which makes it sound like it does what you want: "the standout strength of The Way of All Flesh is the vividly recreated Edinburgh of the 1840s. From the grime and squalor of the Old Town to the regimented splendour of Simpson's Queen Street house in the New Town, the reader can smell the manure in the streets and the ether in the consulting rooms, can taste the ale in the Leith pubbs and sense the danger down the dark, dank alleyways in between". (Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue)
posted by paduasoy at 1:56 PM on August 23, 2018

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