Bloody Scotland
PublisherHistoric Environment Scotland
Date Published07 September 2017
Price£ 12.99

Bloody Scotland

by Lin Anderson & others

A collection of short stories by 12 of Scotland’s best crime writers using the country’s iconic sites and structures.


I had a copy of this interesting-looking book with me at lunch break and on the bus. Several people nodded at it knowingly and asked if Bloody Scotland was about the nation’s history. Well, not strictly speaking but it’s possible as it represents a good example of history in the making.

For a start Bloody Scotland is the popular crime fiction festival in Stirling. And the historical events or places are never far away in the excellent examples of rich writing by 12 well-known and recognised Scottish authors: Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Gordon Brown, Doug Johnstone, Craig Robertson, ES Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride. I have no idea how the contributors were chosen but I guess that it could have been tough. Maybe it even involved some Highlands games.

Joking aside, the book was published to coincide with the festival held in September 2017, and celebrates places and people, grim existence and flights of fancy, darkness and light, poetry of imagination and prose of difficult personal experiences, dialects and posh speaking.

The collection of short stories creates a new reality of Scotland as they cover iconic sites and structures, digging deep into the past of the Iron Age through the atmosphere of an 18th century mill to the modern fear of terrorist attacks. They deal with intimate, dangerous and often deadly relationships between people and places. They are firmly set within the local harsh weather conditions, but also stray abroad. You can find passion, despair, revenge and redemption, hard-bitten crime and complete stupidity, even supernatural motifs creeping into the daily existence of some characters. And it’s all presented in a stylish and engaging manner.

Language is a powerful tool here, for example in hilarious but realistic dialogues: ‘I’ve swiped travel passes […] Aff two glaiker-lookin’ students. Pair of them hingin’ about Central Station like a fart in a trance.’ Or in another case of bright conversation: ‘Don’t stray out onto the cliffs – the National Lighthouse Board can’t be responsible for your safety.’ Her smile got brighter: ‘Then I shall do my best not to die.’

The book includes a small map and provides basic details of the locations chosen as the main points of interest for the stories. It could become an alternative travel guide for all those fascinated by the nerve-wracking combination of atmosphere, tales and settings: Maeshowe, Orkney; Hermit’s Castle, Achmelvich; Stanley Mills, Perth; Forth Bridge, Firth of Forth; Bothwell Castle, Uddingston; Kinneil House, Bo’ness; Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, Fraserburgh; Crookston Castle, Glasgow; Crossraguel Abbey, Maybole; St Peter’s Seminary, Cardross; Mousa Broch, Shetland, and Edinburgh Castle.

If you’re familiar with these places, then you will enjoy reading a different take on your own memories or experiences and perhaps see them in a new light. If they are completely unknown, then what better way to dip into the history and geography of the Scottish heritage.

Reviewed 28 April 2018 by Ewa Sherman