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5 Brilliant books set in Edinburgh

Edinburgh city view at night

As the very first UNESCO city of literature, Edinburgh the capital city of Scotland has a strong history of producing amazing authors and books.

If you’re looking for some Scottish fiction, then you can’t go wrong with a book based in Edinburgh. From the tiny closes and towering tenements of the old town to the wide sweeping streets of the new town, down to the port of Leith and out to the seaside at Portobello, the city of Edinburgh has a lot of great atmospheric options for the setting of novels.

There are many incredible Scottish novels which I could add to this list, but here’s 5 amazing fiction books set in Edinburgh, which I recommend.


All The Hidden Truths – Claire Askew

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew book cover

Set in Edinburgh, this is the first of four books in the DI Helen Birch series. This story revolves around 3 different women.

Firstly, there’s Helen – the book opens with her first day in her newly promoted Detective Inspector post and she becomes involved in a case which seems so unlikely, that initially no one believes is really happening.

Secondly, there’s Ishbel, the mother of one of the victims & she is not coping at all after her world has imploded.

Finally, there’s Moira, the mother of the killer and she is trying to make sense of what her son did and deal with the media storm surrounding her as his mother.

It’s fast paced – the book is broken down by day over the course of a week and the level of tiredness that Helen Birch reaches made me feel exhausted!


Rizzio – Denise Mina

Rizzio by Denise Mina book cover

A very short book, this is a story to pick up and read in one sitting.

It tells of one famous evening (and its immediate aftermath) in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots - a dramatic retelling of the historical event.

At 6 months pregnant, Mary is hosting a dinner in her Holyrood Palace chamber on 9th March 1566. The room is ambushed, by a huge group of men, in order to murder one of her guests – her private secretary David Rizzio.

A story which emphasises the power men have over women – even powerful women.


A Corruption of Blood – Ambrose Parry

A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry book cover

Third in the Will Raven & Sarah Fisher series – and it’s as brilliant as the first two!

Set in 1850, Victorian Edinburgh is brought to life with the stark divide between the dark & dingy alleyways in the old town to the much more upmarket Georgian new town.

Professor James Simpson has his medical practice on Queen Street working with Dr Will Raven and his medical assistant Sarah Fisher. As with the previous 2 books in the series, Will and Sarah end up investigating a series of crimes across the city, whilst also figuring out their complicated relationship with each other.

The author’s note at the end explains a bit about which aspects were based on real characters and events, which I always find fascinating as well as a bit horrifying!


The Peppermint Tea Chronicles– Alexander McCall Smith

The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith book cover

Charming stories about the residents of 44 Scotland Street. Initially started as a weekly serial column in the Scotsman newspaper, this long running series is a delightful read.

It’s set around the real Scotland Street in Edinburgh’s new town.

A group of neighbours are introduced in the first book and you gradually learn more about each of them and their adventures through each subsequent book. Although a series, each one can be read individually.

There’s 7 year old Bertie, his pushy mother is away studying in Aberdeen, leaving Bertie and his more laid-back dad Stuart to enjoy the summer. There’s an anthropologist, a portrait painter, a narcissistic surveyor amongst others.

The series is a charming, witty, understated observation of Edinburgh society, following the daily lives and minor problems of the eclectic group of residents.


The Other Mrs Walker – Mary Paulson Ellis

The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis book cover

An old lady, Mrs Walker, dies alone in her Edinburgh flat. Meanwhile, Margaret Penny has returned from London with no money and no alternative but to move back in with her unwelcoming mother. She gets a job working at the Office for Lost People and her very first case is to locate Mrs Walker’s family so that her estate can be sorted out.

With no paperwork in the flat, only a small collection of seemingly random objects, Margaret sets out to investigate. The story alternates between London and Edinburgh, over a span of about 80 years and between Margaret, her mother, and the Walker family.

It couldn’t be described as a happy read, as it deals with suffering, neglect, hardship alongside many lies & family secrets. However, it’s well written and the mystery behind these 2 families really sucked me in and kept me reading.


Cosy Wee Reads is all about celebrating incredible Scottish fiction. The Scottish books mentioned in this blog post are examples of the type of fiction you can expect to find in Cosy Wee Reads book gifts. They make the perfect unique gift for book lovers and you can find out more about the monthly book subscription boxes and one-off gifts here.

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