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Top Ten Scottish Mystery Series

Beaton, M. C.

Did you know that M. C. Beaton is the pseudonym of Marion Chesney, the current queen of Regencies?  Her detective Hamish MacBeth is the gangly, carrot-haired, lazy, but intelligent constable of the Highland Scottish village of Lochdubh.  Expect good plots, quaint locals, and continuing characters such as:   Priscilla Halburton-Smith, the love of MacBeth’s life;  Detective Chief Inspector Blair, MacBeth’s nemesis; and Towser the dog.

Hammond, Gerald

Keith Calder, ex-poacher, expert gunsmith, sports shop owner, partially unreconstructed rogue, and amateur sleuth, is the hero in twenty-three  mysteries set in the town of Newton Lauder, Scotland.

Retired British army officer John Cunningham stars in the The Three Oaks series of thirteen novels.  Cunningham is a gun-dog trainer, specializing in spaniels, in the Fife region of Scotland. Expect lots of great dogs in this series.

Jardine, Quintin

Bob Skinner, Deputy Chief Constable of Edinburgh has the reputation of being the “toughest cop” in Great Britain.  “Big Bob,” as he is called, gets involved in all the big events in the city and investigates every sort of criminal endeavor.

Jardine’s second series features Glaswegian Osbert “Oz” Blackstone, movie actor and sometime “private enquiry agent.” Although he becomes rich and famous during the series, Oz still gets involved in criminal investigations.

McDermid, Val

One of Val McDermid’s series features Lindsay Gordon, a Scottish lesbian journalist who is drawn into investigations of the seamier side of Glasgow.  Lindsay is a committed feminist whose cases often involve the plight of women.

McIlvanney, William

“Black Jack Laidlaw, the mad detective,” as his peers in the Glasgow police department call him, is troubled by existential angst and guilt over the loss of his idealism.  With its gritty Glasgow scenes and characters, this is a thoughtful, melancholy series of three novels.

Miles, Keith

Former golf champion and amateur sleuth Alan Saxon hopes to get back in the money at the British Open on the historic Saint Andrews course, but he is plagued by a series of deathly distractions.  Unfortunately, the first book in the series, Bullet Hole, is the only one set in Scotland.  Later books take him to other corners of the golf world.

Mina, Denise

Maureen O’Donnell, is the interesting protagonist of the “Garnethill” trilogy set in Glasgow.  As a result of sexual abuse, Maureen has spent three years in a psychiatric hospital.  On her release, she faces further difficulties, including the murder of her lover.  Two more books see Maureen through other dangers.

Mina has written a second series of three books also set in Glasgow.  They focus on “Paddy” Meehan who goes against her family and becomes a journalist for the Scottish Daily News rather than having a big Catholic wedding.  Naturally she gets involved in he stories she covers.

Rankin, Ian

Rankin’s nineteen police procedurals starring John Rebus are best-sellers in England and deserve to be better known to American readers.  Rebus is a Detective Inspector with the Edinburgh police.  He shares many of the typical traits of a modern detective:  he is bad-tempered, has trouble with alcohol and women, and tends to put work before family and friends.  Recurring characters in the series are Rebus’ estranged daughter Samantha, his sometime police partner Siobhan Clarke, and “Big Ger” Cafferty, Edinburgh’s leading gangster.

Smith, Alexander McCall

Scottish-American philosopher Isabel Dalhousie, single woman of independent means, edits the esteemed Review of Applied Ethics, and presides over the Sunday Philosophy Club in Edinburgh.  Despite her intellect and high ethical standards, Isabel’s nosiness leads her into other people’s problems.  Though Isabel is not at all like Mma “Precious” Ramotswe, Smith’s more famous detective, her cases have the same gentle tempo.

Templeton, Aline

Detective Inspector Marjory Fleming, “Big Marge” to her constables, works out of Galloway, Scotland.  She is the protagonist in a series of four well-plotted procedurals which evoke life in small-town Scotland.

–Janet Husband, posted 8/29/2010

Posted September/2/2010

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