Imaginary Edinburgh, the star of so many page turners - Liam Rudden

EDINBURGH in the near future. The virus has struck and residents are required by law to undergo a monthly health check to ensure they’re clear of it.

Friday, 3rd May 2019, 4:31 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd May 2019, 4:35 pm

Those who don’t, fall under the scrutiny of a Health Enforcement Teams - welcome to Lesley Kelly’s dystopian view of the Capital.

Recently I helped launch the third novel in Lesley’s Health of Strangers series.

In the latest instalment, Death at the Plague Museum, the North Edinburgh health Enforcement Team are back in action when three senior civil servants charged with the management of the virus are found dead or missing.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Bernard, Mona and the rest of the HET are fighting not just a pandemic, but government secrets.

The book treads the path of political thriller in a city that is instinctively recognisable yet just one step removed from reality.

It got me thinking of the many impressions of Edinburgh springing to life in novels right now.

A very different Capital is depicted in Douglas Watt’s The Unnatural Death of A Jacobite, the latest of his historic crime novels to feature Investigating Advocate John Mackenzie.

Mackenzie, like all good detectives is one half of a double-act, his side-kick is Davy Scougall, a notary public.

Set against the backdrop of Bonnie Dundee leading a Highland army intent on crushing the government and restoring James Stuart as King, they must solve a murder.

It takes them ‘on a dangerous journey through the criminal underworld and clandestine clubs of the old Capital’ of 1689.

Watt captures the period with an eye for detail that paints the period vividly in a gripping read.

Different again is the city as depicted by Alex Brown in his debut novel, Hit Me.

Like Watt, Brown is a native of the Capital.

Hit Me is a darkly comic crime thriller, set here and the Highlands, which introduces readers to ex-boxer Barnabus Wild.

Known as Barney to his friends, he is liked by everyone, but his luck runs out when a routine hospital appointment reveals he has a terminal illness.

Trying and failing to end his own life, he asks a gangster friend to put a hit out on him.

However, when he gets a call from the hospital to say he’d been given someone else’s results - there’s nothing wrong with him - he realises he must get the hit cancelled, with often hilarious results.

A real page turner, laced with the darkest of humour, Hit Me is a great read that is currently under consideration for a big screen adaptation.

All three are worth a read, but if you’re still looking for a tale with an Edinburgh bias, try Oscar de Muriel’s McGray and Frey series, James Oswald’s Inspector McLean novels, Paul Johnston’s Quintilian Dalrymple books or, of course, Ian Rankin’s series featuring Edinburgh’s most famous detective, Rebus.