Lighthouse Letters
By Sharma Krauskopf

This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.

Murder and Mayhem in Edinburgh

Murder and mayhem surround me. On one side of my desk is a stack of books written by Ian Rankin (pictured on the right via Wikimedia) and on the other is a stack by Quintin Jardine. I am not sure how many book reviews I have written in my life time but it must be up in the hundreds by now. Enough to say I know the Scottish book market as well as anyone. The last ten days I have read two books by Jardine and two by Rankin. Thank goodness I am finally caught me up with the most recent from the two prolific writers. The first of August a new Quintin Jardine Skinner book is due and I will be behind again.

Ian Rankin and Quintin Jardine are both top selling mystery writers in Scotland with Rankin being on the best seller list the most often. Their subject is crime in Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh. Many readers have asked me which of the two writers I favor since they seem so similar. That is a difficult question for me to answer especially since Quintin Jardine is a good friend.

Trying to be as objective as possible I might answer differently depending on what I have just read or the mood I am in. There is no doubt that both the Rebus and Skinner series are well written. Both have an Edinburgh policeman for a main character. Both characters have a love partner who is a doctor and much of the drama revolves around the main character's only daughter. There the similarity ends. Inspector Rebus is as hard as nails has a severe drinking problem, and most of his adventures take place in the slums and dark side of Edinburgh. A part of the city few tourists see which makes the books interesting.

Inspector Rebus is a man of the streets - but is frequently inside - drinking. The Oxford Bar in Young Street (pictured here via Wikimedia), Edinburgh, is his favoured haunt; it comes complete with a real fire, real ales, real locals and a real picture of Rankin behind the bar.

Deputy Chief Constable Skinner is Edinburgh's number two police officer so his books come from a totally different perspective. Bob Skinner is a more upper class super hero. He does get involved in street crime but he has a whole team of police who work with him. His adventures often involve politicians like the Secretary of Scotland or judges. The books are similar but the perspective is different. Added dimensions to the Skinner books are more detailed plots running from book to book, which revolve around Bob Skinner's personal life and that of his team.

So to put it simply if you want your crime hard, fast and dirty then read Rankin's books. If you want your crime with a broader more gentle scope than read Jardine. If you want just good mystery then grab either one off of the bookshelf!

Or, if you are like me and had enough Edinburgh crime for a few weeks then I have another suggestion. Add a little country air with your crime by reading M.C. Beaton's Hamish MacBeth. The stories are located in the village of Plockton on the north-west coast of Scotland, overlooking Loch Carron (picture here is by Sarah Charlesworth, via Wikimedia). Personally, I have had enough murder and mayhem for a while so I am escaping to Skye and Soay and the humor of Lillian Beckwith ("The Hills is Lonely" and "The Sea for Breakfast" and many others).

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