From gripping works of crime fiction to speculative sci-fi, from musings on lockdown and the pandemic to affecting autobiographical novels about otherness and prejudice, Scottish writers and authors based in Scotland have produced a dazzling array of stories in 2022. Here are some of the best of what the year had to offer.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

The New York-based Scot followed his stellar Booker Prize-winning debut Shuggie Bain with another dissection of his Glasgow hometown and his experience of growing up gay and alienated. Set in the early 1990s in a working-class community plagued by poverty and gang violence, it finds 15-year-old Mungo falling for James, a Catholic, while negotiating his own difficult family dynamics.

Shrines Of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

The Edinburgh-based author followed 2019’s Big Sky, the fifth in her Jackson Brodie crime novel series, with this story set in Soho in the 1920s. Nellie Coker and son Niven own and run a nightclub under the watchful eye of Frobisher, a police inspector. When two teenage girls disappear, former nurse Gwendolen Kelling sets out to track them down – a journey which will lead inevitably to Nellie’s Soho demi-monde.

May God Forgive by Alan Parks

This fifth instalment in Parks’s 1970s-set Harry McCoy crime series continues the neat titular conceit which began with Bloody January and continued with February’s Son. Winner of this year’s prestigious McIlvanney Scottish Crime Book of the Year Prize at the Bloody Scotland festival, it finds McCoy racing to save two boys kidnapped by unknown assailants after they are charged with a deadly arson attack on a hairdresser. Let’s hope Parks makes it all the way through to December to complete the dodecology.

Hex by Jenni Fagan

Once described by the New York Times no less as “the patron saint of literary street urchins”, Fagan followed 2021’s Luckenbooth, a sort of hymn to the people and history of Edinburgh’s Old Town, with this novella. Set against the backdrop of the infamous North Berwick witch trials of the late 16th century, it drops us into the condemned cell where Geillis Duncan is spending her last night before being hanged. An eventful last night, as it turns out.

A Heart Full Of Headstones by Ian Rankin

The Rebus creator has signed up for two more outings for his much-loved Edinburgh detective and this is the first, a suspenseful tale which opens with Rebus in the dock for an as-yet-unspecified crime (the novel’s tagline: “The truth will come out. And it will bury John Rebus”). Siobhan Clarke and Big Ger Cafferty return, there’s the usual cast of ne’er-do-wells and – topical this – Rankin nudges the plot in the direction of police corruption.

The Herald:


Companion Piece by Ali Smith

A kind of unofficial fifth part to the quartet she began in 2016 with Autumn and completed with 2020’s Summer, this aptly named work is Smith’s lockdown novel. It introduces the reader to struggling artist Sandy Gray and follows her through a series of events as she ponders life, walks her dog, deals with her sick father – hospital visits have been curtailed, of course – and unwillingly re-connects with an old university acquaintance, Martina Pelf. On top of that is a story-within-a-story featuring the ghost of a girl who died in the Middle Ages. "An impressive work of art," wrote The Herald of Companion Piece. Mohsin Hamed, reviewing it for The New York Times, simply called it “stunning.”

The Pharmacist by Rachelle Atalla

The Glasgow-based Scots-Egyptian author and screenwriter won great acclaim for this debut novel, set in a dystopian near-future following what might be a nuclear war. Narrated by Wolfe, the pharmacist of the title, the action takes place in an underground bunker to which the survivors have retreated, and which is run by a leader whose behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic. As Wolfe navigates this world – and tries to survive it – she finds herself making some unlikely alliances. “Highly original” said The Herald, with “shades of Orwell”. Think Snowpiercer-meets-1984 then.

A Matter Of Time by Claire Askew

Combining a career as an award-winning poet with the writing of crime fiction is quite a feat, but Askew manages it nimbly. Two previous novels have been shortlisted for the prestigious CWA Golden Dagger award and this fourth featuring Detective Inspector Helen Birch find her heading for the Borders where there has been a mass shooting at an agricultural show, an event which leads her to an abandoned farmhouse and a long night of negotiation with the holed-up killer.

The Herald: