The best books that show the hidden parts of Edinburgh

Who am I?

I’m a Scottish writer who has lived in Edinburgh for over twenty years and feel a deep affinity for the city. Edinburgh is known for its festival and its castle, which are the parts of the city that the tourists flock to, but there is so much more to it than that. I like books that show the city in a different light: the ones in which Edinburgh itself becomes a character and not just a backdrop; the books that invoke the darker side of Edinburgh, the bits that stay hidden, the bits that only the locals know about. 

I wrote...


By Catriona Child,

Book cover of Trackman

What is my book about?

Davie was about to leave the MP3 player lying on the pavement when something stopped him. A voice in his head. You'll regret it if you leave it. You'll only come back for it later.

Can a song change your life? Can a song bring people, places and moments in time alive again? Davie Watts is the Trackman. He knows what song to play to you and he knows exactly when you need to hear it. Davie seeks out strangers in need and helps them using the power of music. Davie however is continuously haunted by his past and memories of his brother. While helping other people, will he find the time to help himself?

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

A Dark Matter

By Doug Johnstone,

Book cover of A Dark Matter

Why did I love this book?

This is the first book in the Skelfs series by Doug Johnstone. A Dark Matter introduces us to Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah, three generations of women who run a funeral home and a private investigator business in Edinburgh. Each chapter is from the perspective of one of the three central characters and gives the reader a different take on what is happening. The crime elements of the story keep you guessing and make you want to read on, however these are interspersed with moments of introspection from the characters who meditate on issues such as science versus faith and the different ways people deal with grief. It is both uplifting and grim all at the same time as well as being darkly humorous, and it takes you to the parts of Edinburgh that the tourists don’t go to.

By Doug Johnstone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Dark Matter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, gripping page-turning and darkly funny new series.

***Shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***
***Shortlisted for the Amazon Publishing Capital Crime Awards***

'An engrossing and beautifully written tale that bears all the Doug Johnstone hallmarks in its warmth and darkly comic undertones' Herald Scotland

'Gripping and blackly humorous' Observer

'I was addicted from the first page; gripping, gritty and darkly funny as hell' Erin Kelly

'A Dark Matter showcases a…

Book cover of The Everliving Memory of John Valentine

Why did I love this book?

Ross Sayers is one of my favourite contemporary Scottish authors. His books are always unique and humorous with genuine characters. This book looks at the subject of memory, how we can yearn to go back to a particular moment in time, how we can be trapped by things that have happened in our past and asks if we can really trust our own memories. It contains dual timelines alternating between 2019, with Hannah’s first day working at Memory Lane in Edinburgh, and 1975, inside the memory of John Valentine as he relives his wedding day over and over again. It’s a compelling work of speculative fiction that forces the reader to confront their own memories.

By Ross Sayers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Everliving Memory of John Valentine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2019 - It's Hannah Greenshields's first day at Memory Lane, a memory clinic in the centre of Edinburgh. She soon learns that Memory Lane possesses advanced technology which allows clients to relive their favourite memories for a substantial fee.
1975 - John Valentine, a Memory Lane client, is reliving his wedding day over and over again, hoping to change one key event he can't forget. However, as proceedings become less and less familiar, John realises his memory isn't such a safe place after all.
When Hannah and John's paths meet, they must work together to get John back to the…

The Falls

By Ian Rankin,

Book cover of The Falls

Why did I love this book?

This is the twelfth book in the Inspector Rebus series with the main storyline revolving around the disappearance of a student in Edinburgh. The novel pays reference to the true story of the mysterious seventeen miniature coffins which were found on Arthur’s Seat in 1836. These in turn invoke the infamous story of Burke and Hare, two of Edinburgh’s most grisly inhabitants, and shows the dark history that Edinburgh is steeped in. I like the way book develops the relationship between Rebus and his partner Siobhan Clarke and the choices Siobhan is forced to make both in her career and personal life. I always find myself immersed in the world of Rebus when I am reading one of these novels, so much so that I often find myself confusing the fictional crimes with those from the Edinburgh Evening News!

By Ian Rankin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The twelfth Inspector Rebus bestseller - a powerfully gripping novel where past and present collide...
From the No.1 bestselling author of A SONG FOR THE DARK TIMES

'This is, quite simply, crime writing of the highest order' DAILY EXPRESS

'The unopposed champion of the British police procedural' GUARDIAN

A student has gone missing in Edinburgh. She's not just any student, though, but the daughter of well-to-do and influential bankers. There's almost nothing to go on until DI John Rebus gets an unmistakable gut feeling that there's more to this than just another runaway spaced out on unaccustomed freedom.

Two leads…

Book cover of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Why did I love this book?

This was the first book I read when I started my English degree at Aberdeen University and I remember reading it on the train home one weekend and being completely gripped by it. The novel is about two brothers, George and Robert, one of whom is murdered. The structure of the novel is interesting in that, although it is a work of fiction, it presents itself as a found and true document, with the first part being narrated by the ‘editor’ and the second part told from the point of view of Robert. Robert is the quintessential unreliable narrator and his fate can be interpreted in a number of different ways from demonic possession to schizophrenia. It’s a dark and gothic novel that leaves you feeling unsettled long after you have finished it and unsure about what is real and what isn’t.

By James Hogg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written in 1824, James Hogg's masterpiece is a brilliant portrayal of the power of evil. Set in early eighteenth-century Scotland, the novel recounts the corruption of a boy of strict Calvinist upbringing by a mysterious stranger under whose influence he commits a series of murders. The reader, while recognising the stranger as the Devil, is prevented by the subtlety of the novel's structure from finally deciding whether, for all his vividness and wit, he is more than a figment of the imagination. This is the only complete edition of Hogg's Confessions, since it was first published. All subsequent editions, until…


By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Book cover of Kidnapped

Why did I love this book?

This is one of my favourite books of all time, not least because my Dad was an extra in the Michael Caine film version and gifted me a copy of the book when I was eight and in hospital. It is set around the true story of the Appin murder and tells the story of David Balfour. On the surface this is a historical adventure story however at its heart is the friendship between David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart. Despite their obvious differences, such as age and politics, the two men form a loyal and enduring friendship and are not ashamed to show their love for one another. Corstorphine Hill is one of Edinburgh’s hidden treasures and one of my favourite places in the city and is the setting for one of the book’s most beautiful and moving passages.

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, swashbuckling novel about a young boy who is forced to go to sea and who is then caught up in high drama, daring adventure and political intrigue.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is introduced by Louise Welsh and features black and white illustrations.

Headstrong David Balfour, orphaned at seventeen, sets out from the Scottish Lowlands to seek his fortune in Edinburgh. Betrayed by his wealthy Uncle…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Edinburgh Scotland, Scotland, and dark comedy?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Edinburgh Scotland, Scotland, and dark comedy.

Edinburgh Scotland Explore 42 books about Edinburgh Scotland
Scotland Explore 267 books about Scotland
Dark Comedy Explore 215 books about dark comedy

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Steel Bonnets, The Debatable Land, and John Knox if you like this list.