Dorothy Dunnett Books

I’ve written about Dorothy Dunnett and how very much I love The Lymond Chronicles. I’ve re-read Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles almost annually for more than half my life. If you love rich, textured, sinewy prose, English and Scottish literature, language, history, memorable characters and derring-do, read these books.

You can buy all six books of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles in Kindle format in one fell swoop.

The Lymond Chronicles (listed in order):

The Game of Kings. Vintage Books; Reprint edition (April 29, 1997). 978-0679777434.


In this first book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, Francis Crawford of Lymond, traitor, murderer, nobleman, returns to Scotland to redeem his reputation and save his home.

It is 1547 and Scotland has been humiliated by an English invasion and is threatened by machinations elsewhere beyond its borders, but it is still free. Paradoxically, her freedom may depend on a man who stands accused of treason. He is Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scapgrace nobleman of crooked felicities and murderous talents, possessed of a scholar’s erudition and a tongue as wicked as a rapier. In The Game of Kings, this extraordinary antihero returns to the country that has outlawed him to redeem his reputations even at the risk of his life.

Read an excerpt of The Game of Kings.
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Queen’s Play. Vintage (April 29, 1997). ISBN: 978-0679777441.


This second book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles follows Frances Crawford of Lymond who has been abruptly called into the service of Mary Queen of Scots.

Though she is only a little girl, the Queen is already the object of malicious intrigues that extend from her native country to the court of France. It is to France that Lymond must travel, exercising his sword hand and his agile wit while also undertaking the most unlikely of masquerades, all to make sure that his charge’s royal person stays intact.
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Disorderly Knights. Vintage; Reprint edition (June 24, 1997). ISBN: 978-0679777458.


This third volume in The Lymond Chronicles, the highly renowned series of historical novels takes place in 1551, when Francis Crawford of Lymond is dispatched to embattled Malta, to assist the Knights of Hospitallers in defending the island against the Turks. But shortly the swordsman and scholar discovers that the greatest threat to the Knights lies within their own ranks, where various factions vie secretly for master.

Read an excerpt of Queen’s Play.
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Pawn In Frankincense. Vintage (June 24, 1997). ISBN: 978-0679777465.


In this fourth book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles,  Francis Crawford of Lymond desperately searches the Ottoman empire for his kidnapped child.

Somewhere within the bejeweled labyrinth of the Ottoman empire, a child is hidden. Now his father, Francis Crawford of Lymond, soldier of fortune and the exiled heir of Scottish nobility, is searching for him while ostensibly engaged on a mission to the Turkish Sultan. At stake is the political order of three continents, for Lymond’s child is a pawn in a cutthroat game whose gambits include treason, enslavement, and murder. In that game’s final move, which is played inside the harem of the Topkapi palace, Lymond will come face to face with his most implacable enemy and the dreadful ambiguities of his own nature.
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Ringed Castle. Vintage (Vintage (September 2, 1997). ISBN: 978-0679777472.


Fifth in the legendary Lymond ChroniclesThe Ringed Castle leaps from Mary Tudor’s England to the barbaric Russia of Ivan the Terrible. Francis Crawford of Lymond moves to Muscovy, where he becomes advisor and general to the half-mad tsar. Yet even as Lymond tries to civilize a court that is still frozen in the attitudes of the Middle Ages, forces in England conspire to enlist this infinitely useful man in their own schemes.
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Checkmate. Vintage; Reprint edition (September 2, 1997). ISBN: 978-0679777489.


Sixth in the legendary Lymond ChroniclesCheckmate takes place in 1557, where Francis Crawford of Lymond is once again in France, leading an army against England. But even as the Scots adventurer succeeds brilliantly on the battlefield, his haunted past becomes a subject of intense interest to forces on both sides.
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Ancillary & Companion Books to The Lymond Chronicles

Dorothy Dunnett. Ed. The Lymond Poetry. Penguin Books Ltd (June 5, 2003). ISBN: 978-0141012445.
A beautiful collection of Renaissance poetry, assembled by one of the world’s finest historical novelists. Dorothy Dunnett died in November 2001. She left behind this anthology, chosen by her from the hundreds of poems which she used in her world-famous series of novels known as The Lymond Cronicles. It is a fascinating set of choices, featuring Thomas Wyatt, King James I, extracts from the Psalms, and even an anonymous poem called “Monologue of a Drunkard” — as Dorothy herself writes, here in one volume is “the poetry of love, of folk-humour and ballad, the songs of Persian poets and of the troubadours, translated where need be into English.”
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Elspeth Morrison. The Dorothy Dunnett Companion. Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (July 10, 2001). ISBN: 978-0375725876.

Elspeth Morrison. The Dorothy Dunnett Companion Volume I. Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (July 10, 2001). ISBN: 978-0375725876.

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Elspeth Morrison. The Dorothy Dunnett Companion Volume II. Vintage (April 16, 2002). ISBN: 978-0375726682.

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The House of Niccolo

This eight volume series is slightly denser and more layered in complexity (and political intrigue) than the Lymond Chronicles, and well worth the amount of time and attention it requires to work your way through eight substantial books. I haven’t re-read these as often as the Lymond Chronicles, but I look forward to doing that again soon. The connections between the two series are numerous, both genetic and thematic, but you truly don’t have to have read either series to enjoy the other.

Niccolo Rising: Book One of the House of Niccolo. Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (March 30, 1999). ISBN: 978-0375704772.

With the bravura storytelling and pungent authenticity of detail she brought to her acclaimed Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett, grande dame of the historical novel, presents The House of Niccolò series. The time is the 15th century, when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas vander Poele of Bruges.

Niccolò Rising, Book One of the series, finds us in Bruges, 1460. Jousting is the genteel pastime, and successful merchants are, of necessity, polyglot. Street smart, brilliant at figures, adept at the subtleties of diplomacy and the well-timed untruth, Dunnett’s hero rises from wastrel to prodigy in a breathless adventure that wins him the hand of the strongest woman in Bruges and the hatred of two powerful enemies. From a riotous and potentially murderous carnival in Flanders, to an avalanche in the Alps and a pitched battle on the outskirts of Naples, Niccolò Rising combines history, adventure, and high romance in the tradition stretching from Alexandre Dumas to Mary Renault.

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The Spring of the Ram: Book Two of the House of Niccolo. Vintage (March 30, 1999). ISBN: 978-0375704789.

In 1461, Nicholas is in Florence. Backed by none other than Cosimo de’ Medici, he will sail the Black Sea to Trebizond, last outpost of Byzantium, and the last jewel missing from the crown of the Ottoman Empire. But trouble lies ahead. Nicholas’s stepdaughter — at the tender age of thirteen — has eloped with his rival in trade: a Machiavellian Genoese who races ahead of Nicholas, sowing disaster at every port. And time is of the essence: Trebizond may fall to the Turks at any moment. Crackling with wit, breathtakingly paced, The Spring of the Ram is a pyrotechnic blend of scholarship and narrative shimmering with the scents, sounds, colors, and combustible emotions of the 15th century.

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Race of Scorpions: Book Three of the House of Niccolo. Vintage; First Edition edition (March 30, 1999). ISBN: 978-0375704796.

From Publishers Weekly:
The author of Niccolo Rising and The Spring of the Ram continues the bold adventures of Niccolo (Nicholas vanderok Poele) in this deftly drawn, complex novel of 15th-century intrigue. When Niccolo’s wealthy older wife dies in Bruges, he finds himself–at age 21 — in the dual role of prosperous merchant and sought-after military strategist. Niccolo’s powerful private army is coveted by two warring rulers: steely Carlotta, Queen of Jerusalem, Cyprus and Armenia; and her lethally charming, illegitimate brother, James, who is determined to wrest the kingdom from his detested sister. Niccolo’s suave demeanor and physical prowess, his ability to turn a profit as well as a battle, attracts dangerous lovers. The beautiful courtesan Primaflora and the vengeful Katerina — married to a nobleman but the mother of Niccolo’s son (whose paternity is a secret) — both disguise their intentions. Through precisely rendered scenes, whether depicting a battle on the high seas, the operations of a dye works, a cleverly plotted ambush (using insects) or the gruesome tactics employed to destroy a proud city under siege, Dunnett furnishes fascinating images while spinning her admirable narrative web.
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Scales of Gold: Book Four of the House of Niccolo. Vintage (June 1, 1999). ISBN: 978-0375704802.

From Publishers Weekly:

From the glassworks of Murano to the commercial hub of Timbuktu — and through fearsome peril on land and sea — entrepreneurship, religion, gold fever, friendship and revenge fuel this rich historical romance from a masterful raconteur. In 1464, adventurer and merchant banker Nicholas van der Pole (hero of three previous Dunnett novels) returns to Venice to find his financial empire in jeopardy due to the Crusades and the onslaught of powerful, unscrupulous competitors. Closely guarding the specifics of his mission, Nicholas sets out for Africa and its gold trade, taking with him his closest friend Loppe, guide and former slave; Father Godscalc, a would-be missionary to Ethiopia; Diniz, his impetuous young cousin; and Gelis van Borselen, a strong, brilliant woman who blames Nicholas for the death of her sister. Relying on Nicholas’s unflappability, his instinct for leadership and especially his ever-calculating intelligence, the unlikely group make their way deep into the continent’s perilous, uncharted interior. Moving briskly from thick jungles to barren deserts to opulent salons throughout Europe, Dunnett (Race of Scorpions) fills each page with wit and winning detail.

The Unicorn Hunt: Book Five of the House of Niccolo. Vintage; 1st Printing edition (June 1, 1999). ISBN: 978-0375704819.

To Lie with Lions: Book Six of The House of Niccolo. Vintage (July 27, 1999). ISBN: 978-0375704826.

Caprice and Rondo: Book Seven of the House of Niccolo. Vintage (August 1, 1999). ISBN: 978-0375706127.

Gemini: The Eighth Book of The House of Niccolo. Vintage (May 2001). ISBN: 978-0375708565.
Few literary projects these days rival in scope Dunnett’s dazzling House of Niccolo, a series of well-researched historical novels (each running over 500 pages) that propels its 15th-century hero across Turkey, Poland, Italy, France, Flanders, the Sahara desert and Scotland in search of gold, legitimacy, glory and family. This eighth and final installment finds the former banker Nicholas de Fleury back in Edinburgh, grappling with a whirlwind of royal machinations, business deals, family vendettas and empire-building challenges. Despite an absence of four years, the charming, shrewd Nicholas quickly insinuates himself back into the court of King James Stewart III, striking up a friendship with James’s rebellious brother Sandy and spying for the king’s coterie of advisors. Meanwhile, Nicholas must keep watchful eye on the wealthy St. Pol family, which has long hated him for claiming to be Simon de St. Pol’s son. (The family insists he’s the bastard child of SimonÆs promiscuous ex-wife.) Will the tempestuous adolescent Henry de St. Pol discover that he is Nicholas’s child, not Simon’s? Will France help Sandy topple the weak King James? Will the nefarious David de Salmeton, a religious procurator, be able to assassinate Nicholas? Can Nicholas and his wife, Gelis, maintain their hard-won happiness? These are just a few of the questions that underlie this intrigue-ridden epic. Considering the vast cast of characters (a list of them runs 13 tightly spaced pages), it’s remarkably easy for the neophyte to enter DunnettÆs adventurous world, for the author does an outstanding job of keeping each personality distinct and each of the innumerable subplots coherent. But despite the bounty of suspenseful sword fights, feasts, battles and closed-door negotiations, the real pleasure here lies in the reams of artful repartee, which can rival Jane Austen’s for wit and subtlety. Despite a few minor flaws (the wives are too good, the peasant girls too compliant, a few historical distortions), Dunnett’s work sits triumphantly at the top of a crowded field: it is a sensational, emotionally resonant epic.
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The King Hereafter.

This is a stand alone novel about the historical Macbeth, set in the Orkneys, Scotland, Russia and Rome. It is thoroughly researched, and full of intriguing plots, counter plots and subplots. It’s also funny.

 

Johnson Johnson Mysteries

 

 

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