This is the first time I have stood in the market place and shouted and I wish I were more practised and my voice were bigger, for I have something of delight for all who care for excellence.
— Neil Paterson of The Sunday Times
The Lymond Chronicles
The Lymond Chronicles are six novels set in and around 16th century Europe. In a series filled with action, suspense and romance, they follow the life and career of a Scottish nobleman, Francis Crawford of Lymond. Meticulously researched, the story starts in Scotland but moves to a wide variety of locations, including France, the Ottoman Empire, Malta, England and Russia. The novels feature a cast of compelling original characters and historical figures. You can find reading guides and discussion points for book groups at https://dunnettcentral.org/dorothy/books/reading-guides.
In reading order the books are
- The Game of Kings (1961)
- Queens’ Play (1964)
- The Disorderly Knights (1966)
- Pawn in Frankincense (1969)
- The Ringed Castle (1971)
- Checkmate (1975)
The House of Niccolò
The House of Niccolò is a series of eight novels set in late 15th century Europe. The protagonist of the series is Nicholas de Fleury (Niccolò, Nicholas van der Poele, or Claes), a talented boy of uncertain birth who rises to the heights of European merchant banking and international political intrigue. The series shares many of the locations in the Lymond Chronicles, but also takes in Bruges, Venice, Florence, Geneva, and the Hanseatic League; Burgundy, Flanders, Poland and Muscovy; Iceland; the Iberian Peninsula and Madeira; the Black Sea cities of Trebizond and Caffa; Persia; the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Rhodes; Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula; and West Africa, Timbuktu and the Sahara. You can find reading guides and discussion points for book groups at https://dunnettcentral.org/dorothy/books/reading-guides.
In reading order the books are
- Niccolò Rising (1986)
- Spring of the Ram (1987
- Race of Scorpions (1989)
- Scales of Gold (1991)
- The Unicorn Hunt (1993)
- To Lie with Lions (1995)
- Caprice and Rondo (1997)
- Gemini (2000)
King Hereafter (1982), a long novel set in Orkney and Scotland in the years just before the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, was, in Dorothy’s eyes, her masterpiece. It is based on the premise that the central historical character Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney, and Macbeth were one and the same person. King Hereafter was exhaustively researched and plunges the reader into 11th century battles, wild landscapes, political intrigue, cruelty, comedy, bloodshed, love and tragedy – and, above all, the formidable young king’s relationship with the sea.
The Dorothy Dunnett Companions
Dorothy helped in the compiling of the The Dorothy Dunnett Companion (1994) and The Dorothy Dunnett Companion II (2002) which were written by Elspeth Morrison. These books provide background information to historical characters and events featured in the Lymond Chronicles and The House of Niccolò; explanations of classical allusions and literary and other quotations used in the two series; notes to sources of these citations; and many maps. The second volume, written after the House of Niccolò series was completed, also contains a bibliography of many of the hundreds of primary and secondary sources Dorothy used in her historical research. She herself contributed much more to the second volume than the first, directly authoring many of the entries.
The Lymond Poetry
Nearly two hundred songs and poems are alluded to in the six books about Francis Crawford of Lymond. The Lymond Poetry contains Dorothy’s versions and translations of about a quarter of the European love poetry and ballads from the sixteenth century – and before – that appeared in the Lymond Chronicles. The compilation was finalised after Dorothy’s death by Elspeth Morrison and edited by Richenda Todd.
The Johnson Johnson series
This series of mystery novels was written over a long period, dating from when Dorothy was writing the Lymond Chronicles to just before the publication of the first in the House of Niccolò series. Some Johnson Johnson plot lines were never resolved. Dorothy left a very brief outline sketch of an eighth Johnson Johnson novel with her papers.
The Dolly of the titles refers to Johnson Johnson’s yacht.
- Dolly and the Singing Bird (1968)
(later renamed Rum Affair) (aka The Photogenic Soprano)
- Dolly and the Cookie Bird (1970)
(later renamed Ibiza Surprise) (aka Murder in the Round)
- Dolly and the Doctor Bird (1971)
(later renamed Operation Nassau) (aka Match for a Murderer)
- Dolly and the Starry Bird (1973)
(later renamed Roman Nights) (aka Murder in Focus)
- Dolly and the Nanny Bird (1976)
(later renamed Split Code)
- Dolly and the Bird of Paradise (1983)
(later renamed Tropical Issue)
- Moroccan Traffic (1991)
(published in the US as Send a Fax to the Kasbah)
The Proving Climb
The Proving Climb is a contemporary short story set on the Scottish Isle of St Kilda and was published in the 1973 anthology Scottish Short Stories (Scottish Arts Council, published by Collins: ISBN 0002218518). We republished it and distributed it to our members in 2008 with issue 100 of our Magazine, Whispering Gallery, which is still available to buy in our online shop. The story displays the classic Dunnett elements of suspense, danger, personal challenge, expert knowledge and, of course, a double twist.
The Scottish Highlands
Together with her husband, Alastair, Dorothy wrote the text for the photography book The Scottish Highlands (photographs: David Paterson), published in 1988. Their personal memories of Scotland are combined with an anecdotal history interwoven with the legends and myths of one of the most beautiful countries on earth. The book follows a path from Argyll and Perthshire, through Speyside and Inverness-shire to the islands of Skye, Mull, Gugha and the Outer Hebrides, and, finally, on to the wildness and captivating emptiness of the northern Highlands – the Summer Isles, Wester Ross, Sutherland and Caithness.
With thanks to the contributors to Wikipedia’s Dorothy Dunnett entry.