The best books of Tartan Noir and Bloody Scotland

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been a keen reader of crime fiction. A huge fan of both Agatha Christie and PD James in the Golden age of English crime fiction. I love American mystery writers too and have attended Bouchercon in New Orleans. Just after Driftnet was published and the Dr. Rhona MacLeod series launched, I was visiting a Crime Writers’ Association conference in Lincoln with my friend and fellow crime writer Alex Gray. That’s where the idea for a weekend promoting Scottish Crime writing began. When we launched it ten years ago, Ian Rankin said, "Scandinavia doesn’t have better crime writers than Scotland, it has better PR." That’s what we set out to change.


I wrote...

Driftnet

By Lin Anderson,

Book cover of Driftnet

What is my book about?

Driftnet is the first novel in the best-selling forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod series.

Summoned in the early hours of the morning to a Glasgow flat, Rhona MacLeod is confronted by a horrific crime scene. A teenage boy mutilated and strangled to death. A boy who bears a remarkable resemblance to her. Might he be the baby boy she gave up for adoption seventeen years ago? Overcome by guilt, Rhona sets out to find the boy’s killer. In doing so, she finds herself immersed in an investigation that seeks to expose a dark underworld that preys on the young and vulnerable. It soon becomes clear that some very powerful men have a lot to lose if she succeeds, and everything to gain if she dies. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Laidlaw

Lin Anderson Why did I love this book?

I still have my treasured original copy of Laidlaw by Willie McIlvanney, and also the more recently published edition. Laidlaw, as Willie said, is first and foremost a man, who just happens to be a policeman. My father was a detective, working on the front line, and we often saw the effect that had on him. So Laidlaw rang true to me, in its questioning, Who is the true monster among us? In its voice and rhythm, which sounded undeniably Scottish, and most of all, in its humanity. 

Laidlaw inspired me to write my book. It also inspired me to help set up Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival Bloody Scotland and the annual McIlvanney award for the best Scottish crime book.

By William McIlvanney,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Laidlaw as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First in “a crime trilogy so searing it will burn forever into your memory. McIlvanney is the original Scottish criminal mastermind” (Christopher Brookmyre, international bestselling author).
 
The Laidlaw novels, a groundbreaking trilogy that changed the face of Scottish fiction, are credited with being the founding books of the Tartan Noir movement that includes authors like Val McDermid, Denise Mina, and Ian Rankin. Says McDermid of William McIlvanney: “Patricia Highsmith had taken us inside the head of killers; Ruth Rendell tentatively explored sexuality; with No Mean City, Alexander McArthur had exposed Glasgow to the world; Raymond Chandler had dressed the darkness…


Book cover of Black and Blue

Lin Anderson Why did I love this book?

Ian is probably the most famous of all Tartan Noir writers. In fact the term Tartan Noir was coined when Ian met James Ellroy at a crime fiction event in Nottingham many years ago. Ian explained that he too was a crime writer and wrote about Edinburgh and the darker side of Scottish life. He said, you could call it Tartan Noir. Ellroy laughed and signed the book 'To the king of Tartan Noir'.

Black and Blue was Ian’s breakthrough novel and when you read it you can see why. Dark and compelling and complex, with perhaps greater depth than the ones that came before, this was my introduction to Rebus and remains a favourite still. 

For anyone about to enter the world of Ian Rankin’s Rebus, Black and Blue is the ideal way in, with plenty more in store.

By Ian Rankin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black and Blue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Special edition of the award-winning Rebus novel from the No.1 bestselling author of A SONG FOR THE DARK TIMES - includes exclusive extra material.

'Britain's best crime novelist' DAILY EXPRESS

'Ian Rankin is a genius' Lee Child

In the 1960s, the infamous Bible John terrorised Scotland when he murdered three women, taking three souvenirs. Thirty years later, a copycat is at work, dubbed Johnny Bible.

DI John Rebus's unconventional methods have got him in trouble before - now he's taken away from the inquiry and sent to investigate the killing of an off-duty oilman. But when his case clashes head-on…


Book cover of The Distant Echo

Lin Anderson Why did I love this book?

This is a great introduction to one of Val McDermid’s series starring young female police officer Karen Pirie. I loved this book when it came out and it is still one of my favourites. Four students at St Andrew’s university become suspects in a murder. It is a psychological thriller, examining the people they were then and those they are now 25 years later. With a wonderful twist in the tail.

Once you read Val McDermid you will always go back for more. The Queen of Scottish Crime as far as I’m concerned.

The Karen Pirie series has now been filmed for TV.

By Val McDermid,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Distant Echo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel in the bestselling Karen Pirie series

The award-winning Number One bestseller and Queen of crime fiction Val McDermid carves out a stunning psychological thriller. The past is behind them, but what's still to come will tear them apart...

From the creators of Line of Duty and Bodyguard, KAREN PIRIE is now on ITV, starring Lauren Lyle (Outlander)

Some things just won't let go.
The past, for instance.
That night in the cemetery.
The girl's body in the snow.

On a freezing Fife morning four drunken students stumble upon the body of a woman in the snow. Rosie…


Book cover of The Long Drop

Lin Anderson Why did I love this book?

The Long Drop is a Scottish crime book like no other. 

It features an imagined night featuring two key figures in the terrible world of one of Scotland’s most notorious murderers Peter Manuel.

In this long night of the soul Peter Manuel and William Watt wander through Glasgow and its underbelly as Manuel leads Watt on a journey of lies, drink, and trickery.

It is Tartan Noir at its most terrifying. A Jekyll and Hyde story of a night based on true events.

By Denise Mina,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Long Drop as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A masterpiece by the woman who may be Britain's finest living crime novelist' Daily Telegraph

'Absorbing... this is a bravura performance, a true original' Ian Rankin

Glasgow, 1957. It is a December night and William Watt is desperate. His family has been murdered and he needs to find out who killed them.

He arrives at a bar to meet Peter Manuel, who claims he can get hold of the gun that was used. But Watt soon realises that this infamous criminal will not give up information easily.

Inspired by true events, The Long Drop follows Watt and Manuel along back…


Book cover of Quite Ugly One Morning

Lin Anderson Why did I love this book?

I remember to the moment I opened this book. It was on a train to Inverness.

This was Chris’s first novel starring journalist Jack Parlabane and it had garnered great reviews. I couldn’t put it down, although I had to close it on occasions to recover myself from its hilarity and gruesomeness. 

Dark irreverent Scottish humour, it began Chris’s fabulous career in crime and thriller writing which continues to this day.

Chris Brookmyer is a genius, and we at Bloody Scotland can all agree on that. 

By Christopher Brookmyre,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Quite Ugly One Morning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Yeah, yeah, the usual. A crime. A corpse. A killer. Heard it. Except this stiff happens to be a Ponsonby, scion of a venerable Edinburgh medical clan, and the manner of his death speaks of unspeakable things. Why is the body displayed like a slice of beef? How come his hands are digitally challenged? And if it's not the corpse, what is that awful smell? A post-Thatcherite nightmare of frightening plausibility, QUITE UGLY ONE MORNING is a wickedly entertaining and vivacious thriller, full of acerbic wit, cracking dialogue and villains both reputed and shell- suited.


You might also like...

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Scotland, Glasgow, and Edinburgh Scotland?

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