Luckenbooth, the third novel from the bracingly good Scottish writer Jenni Fagan, defies any sort of neat description. Let’s just say that it was, for this reader, no less powerful in its effect than the 1994 film Shallow Grave — Danny Boyle’s debut, and a defining movie for Generation X.

In that now-vintage piece, Boyle showed us that Edinburgh’s imposing tenement buildings were perfect settings for tales about mayhem and murder...

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