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    November 2021
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    Bibliotheca Scotiana: our favourite books for Christmas !

    “One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore.

    “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair.

    People will insist on giving me books.”

    (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

    Christmas funfair in George Square Glasgow Wikipedia

    Christmas funfair in George Square Glasgow Wikipedia

    Did you notice, on this lovely picture, the emblems of Glasgow ?

    This is the tree that never grew.
    This is the bird that never flew.
    This is the bell that never rang.
    This is the fish that never swam.

    bannière cadeaux

    Dear readers,

    Christmas trees and decorations are twinkling everywhere and the end of the year festivities are quickly approaching but don’t panic if, like most of us, you are still looking for a few little things to put under the Christmas tree. Books are waiting for us everywhere, displayed on our local bookshops or at one click of the mouse, a multitude of them, old and new books, in every possible genre. There will certainly be at least one special book for each of your family members and friends, ready to add a touch a magic to his or her life.

    Offrez des livres! Ils s’ouvrent comme des boîtes de chocolats

    et se referment comme des coffrets à bijoux”

    tweeted Bernard Pivot a few days ago.

    “Offer books ! They open like chocolate boxes and close like jewelry boxes”

    Beautifully said indeed ! No wonder, our favourite cultural journalist is the author of this tweet and he is well known for his ‘sens de la formule’. He is an insatiable book lover !

    Bernard Pivot is also a cat lover and one his most famous tweets reads :

    « J’aime les tweets parce qu’ils partent en silence, circulent en silence et arrivent en silence. Les tweets sont des chats. »

    Six Dinner Sid Inga Moore Hodder Children's Books 2010

    Now, here’s a selection of my favourite books for Christmas 2017. Of course, all of them are connected with Scotland 😉

    This year I’ve chosen to focus on “crime novels” and “travel books”.  The crime novels I’ve selected take place in some of the most beautiful islands of Scotland: Shetland and the Outer Hebrides. As far as the islands of Shetland are concerned, I’m pretty sure Iain and Margaret won’t disagree with me 😉

    Ann Cleeves and Peter May, the authors of the crime novels I’ve chosen today for my Christmas selection, are very popular all over the world and they have been translated into several languages including French ;-). Each of them has also written a book about the place where their stories take place. Thus, their readers can follow in the steps of their famous detectives Jimmy Perez and Fin Macleod…



    Ann Cleeves Shetland Macmillan 2015

    Ann Cleeves’ bestselling series of crime novels, featuring Detective Jimmy Perez, and now also adapted for a major BBC television series, draw their inspiration from the place in which they take place: Shetland.

    An archipelago of more than a hundred islands, it is the one of the most remote places in the United Kingdom. Its fifteen hundred miles of shore mean that wherever one stands, there is a view of the sea. It has sheltered voes and beaches and dramatically exposed cliffs, lush meadows full of wild flowers in the summer and bleak hilltops where only the hardiest of plants will grow. It is a place where traditions are valued and celebrated, but new technologies and ways of working are also embraced.

    In this gloriously illustrated companion to her novels, Ann Cleeves takes readers through a year on Shetland, learning about its past, meeting its people, celebrating its festivals and seeing how the flora and fauna of the islands changes with the seasons. Whether it is the drama of the Viking fire festival of Up Helly Aa in winter, or the piercing blue and hot pink of spring flowers on the clifftops, the long, white nights of midsummer or the fierce gales and high tides of autumn, Shetland is vividly captured in all its bleak and special beauty.

    Below is an interesting comment about Ann Cleeves’s Shetland which was recently written by HMS Warspite, a reviewer on Amazon. com. He  gave 5 stars to the book. I do agree with him.
    Likely many readers of this book, including this reviewer, first learned something of the Shetland Islands through Ann Cleeves’ mystery novels set in the islands, or the highly successful BBC dramatization “Shetland” based on her novels. Both portray a distant and uniquely dramatic landscape, and a people set slightly apart by living there. “Ann Cleeves’ Shetland” is about both.In just over 200 pages heavy with beautiful color photographs, Ann Cleeves discusses her life-long fascination with the Islands and the locals. She chooses a seasonal approach, appropriate for an archipelago as far north as Anchorage, Alaska, with its own unique Viking/Norse heritage and its place in a modern Scotland as part of the North Sea energy enterprise. The commentary catches many interesting details of life on the islands, where traditional way meet and mix with the modern world.The book is highly recommended to would-be visitors as an introduction to the Shetlands, and as a very decent souvenir of a successful visit. Fair warning: Like many places in the high latitudes, weather conditions are highly variable, and those not entranced by the landscape or the wildlife or the history might be less entertained.
    (HMS Warspite on

    Ann Cleeves’s Shetland series is composed of seven books. An eighth volume should be published in 2018.


    Ann Cleeves Shetland series volumes 1-2-3


    Ann Cleeves Shetland shetland series 4-5-6-7


    1. Raven Black (2006)
    2. White Nights (2008)
    3. Red Bones (2007)
    4. Blue Lightning (2010)
    5. Dead Water (2013)
    6. Thin Air (2014)
    7. Cold Earth (2016)
    8. Wild Fire (2018)


    Ann Cleeves Shetland quatre volumes en français r1

    Pour nos lecteurs français voici les quatre premiers volumes de la série Shetland traduits en français :

    1. Noire Solitude (traduit en français en 2009)
    2. Blanc comme la nuit (traduit en français en 2010)
    3. L’heure écarlate (traduit en français en 2011)
    4. Bleu comme la peur (traduit en français en 2012)


    Ann Cleeves Shetland 1 Raven Black

    Raven Black is the first book in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series – filmed as the major BBC1 drama starring Douglas Henshall, Shetland.

    It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter’s eye is drawn to a vivid splash of colour on the white ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour Catherine Ross. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance . . .

    The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man – loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when police insist on opening out the investigation a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community. For the first time in years, Catherine’s neighbours nervously lock their doors, whilst a killer lives on in their midst.


    Ann Cleeves Shetland 2 White Nights

    When Shetland detective Jimmy Perez finds a body in a hut used by fishermen it seems to be a straightforward case of suicide. He recognizes the victim – a stranger with amnesia who had disrupted a local party the night before his death.

    Yet this is no desperate act of anguish, but the work of a cold and calculating killer. As Perez investigates, he finds himself mired in the hidden secrets of the small Biddista community. Then another body is found.

    Perez knows he must break the cycle before another death occurs. But this is a crazy time of year when night blurs into day and nothing is quite as it seems . . .


    Ann Cleeves Shetland 3 Red Bones

    When an elderly woman is shot in what appears to be a tragic accident, Shetland detective Jimmy Perez is called to investigate the mystery.

    The sparse landscape and the emptiness of the sea have bred a fierce and secretive people. As Jimmy looks to the islanders for answers, he finds instead two feuding families whose envy, greed and bitterness have lasted generations.

    Then there’s another murder and, as the spring weather shrouds the island in claustrophobic mists, Jimmy must dig up old secrets to stop a new killer from striking again . . .



    Ann Cleeves Shetland 4 Blue Lightning

    With the autumn storms raging, Fair Isle feels cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped, tension is high and tempers become frayed. Enough to drive someone to murder . . .

    A woman’s body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, with feathers threaded through her hair. The islanders react with fear and anger. Detective Jimmy Perez has no support from the mainland and must investigate the old-fashioned way. He soon realizes that this is no crime of passion – but a murder of cold and calculated intention.

    There’s no way off the island until the storms abate – and so the killer is also trapped, just waiting for the opportunity to strike again.


    Ann Cleeves Shetland 5 Dead Water

    When the body of journalist Jerry Markham is found in a traditional Shetland boat, outside the house of the Fiscal, down at the Marina, young Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted in to head up the investigation.

    Since the death of his fiancée, Inspector Jimmy Perez has been out of the loop, but his interest in this new case is stirred and he decides to help the inquiry. Markham originally a Shetlander but who had made a name for himself in London had left the islands years before. In his wake, he left a scandal involving a young girl, Evie Watt, who is now engaged to a seaman. He had few friends in Shetland, so why was he back?

    Willow and Jimmy are led to Sullum Voe, the heart of Shetland s North Sea oil and gas industry. It soon emerges from their investigation that Markham was chasing a story in his final days. One that must have been significant enough to warrant his death . . .



    Ann Cleeves Shetland 7 Cold Earth

    In the dark days of a Shetland winter, torrential rain triggers a landslide that crosses the main Lerwick-Sumburgh road and sweeps down to the sea.

    At the burial of his old friend Magnus Tait, Jimmy Perez watches the flood of mud and peaty water smash through a croft house in its path. Everyone thinks the croft is uninhabited, but in the wreckage he finds the body of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress. In his mind, she shares his Mediterranean ancestry and soon he becomes obsessed with tracing her identity.

    Then it emerges that she was already dead before the landslide hit the house. Perez knows he must find out who she was, and how she died.


    The many fans of Ann Cleeves who have already read the first seven volumes of her Shetland series are probably looking forward to read Wild Fire, the eighth volume of the collection to be published soon…

    Peter May Hebrides riverrun 2013

    Peter May Hebrides riverrun 2013

     “This is not an official travelogue taking you on a journey around the tourist high points of the Outer Hebrides. It is a highly personalized account of the islands as I experienced them. Although an outsider, I have lived and breathed these islands as both a television producer filming here in all weathers, and a novelist whose dark crime thrillers set among them have become betsellers.”

    (Peter May – Hebrides – Quercus 2013)

    I’ve selected Peter May’s Hebrides trilogy because the three books which compose it, in addition to being excellent thrillers,  reflect the author’s deep sense of the place. He knows very well and loves the Hebrides. We fell in love too with these wonderful islands which we visited several times and the reading of these books gives them a new dimension, making us feel like going back there.

    Born in Glasgow, Peter May has been living in France for a number of years and, in 2016,  he acquired French nationality. Peter May has thus become a Scottish French writer. I can’t help thinking that, at the time of the Auld Alliance it was quite easy for the citizens of Scotland and France Scottish to get the dual nationality.

    This interview is quite moving:

    Peter May The Lewis Trilogy

    The Lewis Trilogy

    After being turned down by all the major British publishers, The Blackhouse, the first book in ‘The Lewis Trilogy’, was published first in May’s adopted home of France in French translation at the end of 2009. The book was hailed as “a masterpiece” by the French daily newspaper L’Humanité and was immediately nominated for several literary awards in France. It won the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre’s Ancres Noires Festival in 2010 and won the French national literature award, the Cezam Prix Littéraire Inter CE at an award ceremony in Strasbourg in October 2011. The Blackhouse went on to be published all over Europe and was bought by British publishers Quercus who brought it out in February 2011. It is the first of three books to be set in the Outer Hebrides, an archipelago off the North West coast of Scotland.

    ‘The Blackhouse’ was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club autumn 2011 list.

    The second book in the trilogy, The Lewis Man was published in January 2012, and spent 18 weeks in the UK hardbacks best sellers’ list. It has won two French literature awards, the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre’s Ancres Noires Festival, 2012 and the Prix des Lecteurs du Télégramme, readers prize of France’s Le Télégramme newspaper; the 10,000 euro award was presented to May at a ceremony in Brest in May 2012.

    ‘The Lewis Man’ won the 2012 Prix International at the Cognac Festival.

    The third book in the trilogy, The Chessmen was published in January 2013. It was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Book of the Year 2014. The Lewis Trilogy has sold more than a million copies in the UK alone.

    I discovered Peter May through The Black House, the first volume of his Hebrides trilogy but I have many more of his books to discover and I will introduce them in “Scotiana’s Bibliotheca” as soon as I have read them.


    The Black House Peter May Quercus 2011

    The Blackhouse is the first novel of The Lewis Trilogy by the Scottish writer Peter May. A suspense thriller, the action takes place mostly on the remote and weather-beaten Isle of Lewis off the coast of northern Scotland. The protagonist, Detective Inspector Finlay Macleod (known as Fin), a native of the island, is sent from his Edinburgh police station to investigate the murder of a man who, it transpires, was the bully at Fin’s school. The modus operandi of the crime resembles a murder that Fin recently investigated in Edinburgh, so there is the possibility of a common perpetrator.

    The story unfolds as the chapters alternate between present-day events, written in the third person, and Fin’s childhood, written in the first person. As the narrative progresses, it emerges that Fin and his childhood story are intimately linked with the murder.

    In 2011, The Blackhouse won the 2011 Cezam Prix Littéraire Inter CE, a readers’ prize for best novel by a European author, published in France.

    Peter May won the 2013 Barry Award for Best Novel, for his book, The Black House.

    In 2013, The Black House won the Barry Award for Best Novel of the Year at a ceremony at Bouchercon, in Albany, New York, US.[

    The novel was adapted as a full-cast BBC Radio serial consisting of four 30 minute episodes. Cal MacAninch starred as Fin.




    The Lewis Man Peter May Quercus 2012


    An unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog; the only clue to its identity being a DNA sibling match to a local farmer.


    But this islander, Tormod Macdonald – now an elderly man suffering from dementia – has always claimed to be an only child.


    When Tormod’s family approach Fin Macleod for help, Fin feels duty-bound to solve the mystery.



    The Chess Men Peter May Quercus 2013


    Fin Macleod, now head of security on a privately owned Lewis estate, is charged with investigating a spate of illegal game-hunting taking place on the island.


    This mission reunites him with Whistler Macaskill – a local poacher, Fin’s teenage intimate, and possessor of a long-buried secret.


    But when this reunion takes a violent, sinister turn and Fin puts together the fractured pieces of the past, he realizes that revealing the truth could destroy the future.



    The last books of my selection will certainly help us to prepare our next trip to Scotland ! Aren’t their covers inviting ?

    Andy Scott’s Kelpies have become emblematic, don’t they ? We’ll try to take new pictures of them during our next trip to Scotland.


    Scotland The Best 100 Places Peter Irvine Collins 2014

    Peter Irvine, bestselling author of SCOTLAND THE BEST, has selected 100 extraordinary places that epitomize what is
    truly great about Scotland. This personal and diverse compendium is illustrated with beautiful and evocative images by some of Scotland’s best photographers.

    Peter Irvine has drawn on a lifetime of experiences to create this list of the 100 best places in Scotland: reflective, magnificent and human places. Some choices may be surprising but all are exceptional.

    This book is Pete’s ultimate collection selected from the hundreds of places that feature in the bestselling independent guide to Scotland, SCOTLAND THE BEST. As well as expert commentary, all 100 places include highly selective recommendations of where to walk, eat and sleep nearby.

    Some of Scotland’s finest photographers have captured the essence of each place. From wild glens to ancient buildings, remote islands to vibrant cities, this is Pete’s list of the places in Scotland that you really should visit in your lifetime. (Amazon )


    North Coast 500, designated as such in 2015, will probably become soon as famous as the West Highland Way and as Route 66 in the US. I’ve already read, and with great interest, the first chapters of the book. We already know a number of the places which are described in it but I’ve learned many many things along the pages. The author’s style is very lively and full of humour. I like the drawing of the little camper van which introduces each chapter ;-). This book is the first one I’m reading about the subject but I recommend it. There are maps of the NC 500 itinerary on Amazon. We will probably buy one of them ;-). Isn’t a good map the key to a good journey ? 😉


    Exploring the NC 500 David M. Addison Extremis Publishing Limited 2017

     BS Noel ourson blanc




    Et bonne lecture “au coin du feu” 😉

    À bientôt for the second part of my post about Falkland Palace. It must be snowing on the old castle now. The place must be quite lovely!


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