Four Novels Set During the Edinburgh Festivals

The tourists have multiplied until they spill off the pavement, posters cover every available square inch of railing, tents have mushroomed in the parks, and you can’t walk down the High Street without at least three dozen people shoving flyers into your hands. It’s August in Edinburgh!

Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny the Festival season is a singular experience, and with so many people and so many events going on in one small city, the energy is palpable and drama inevitable. It’s no wonder that some of Scotland’s best-known writers have chosen to set novels during the Festival period (and those citizens exasperated by the crowds will hardly be surprised that most of them are crime novels. Tripping over tourists can bring out the worst in many of us). If you’re looking to prime yourself before diving into the madness, or hoping to join in vicariously while carefully avoiding all venues, here are four novels set during the Edinburgh Festivals.

One Good Turn cover

One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson

Atkinson’s tough private eye, Jackson Brodie, finds himself drifting around Edinburgh while his girlfriend acts in a dreadful show at the Fringe. Fortunately (for him), distraction comes in the form of a road rage incident and a body that briefly washes up on Cramond Island. In classic Case Histories fashion, the two incidents, seemingly disparate, slowly begin to draw together a wide circle of supposedly unrelated characters.

Fatal Last Words cover

Fatal Last Words, Quintin Jardine

When one of Scotland’s most successful crime writers is found dead in the authors' yurt at the Book Festival, it’s... awkward, to say the least (also, ironic). DCC Bob Skinner—who, frankly, already has enough on his plate—is brought in to investigate in the 19th volume of Jardine’s Skinner series.

Northanger Abbey cover

Northanger Abbey, Val McDermid

For her entry into The Austen Project, McDermid cleverly relocated the action from Regency Bath to August in Edinburgh, where we follow wide-eyed Catherine Moreland from Fringe venues to Book Festival tents before finally getting out of town to visit the titular abbey. Austen herself would surely have approved.

Mortal Causes cover

Mortal Causes, Ian Rankin

Inspector Rebus is back, just in time to investigate the case of a brutally tortured body—the son of a notorious gangster—that’s been found in one of Edinburgh’s subterranean streets during the Festival. Could terrorists have been involved? The city, filled to the brim with people, is primed to explode...

Thoughts? Additions? Objections? Share them in the comments below.

Want a non-Festival taste of our fair city? Check out our pair of lists of Books Set in Edinburgh.

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