Resurrection woman: crime writer revives reputation of the ‘Scottish Jane Austen’…

Val McDermid hopes to revive the memory of 19th-century author Susan Ferrier.

Edinburgh’s eerie gothic past, with its notorious “resurrection men” digging up graves under cover of the night in order to provide medical students with cadavers to dissect, is to receive a positive spin this New Year’s Day.

Once the revelry of the city’s Hogmanay celebrations has dwindled, the Scottish author Val McDermid has a plan to “resurrect” a forgotten literary heroine – the 19th-century Scottish novelist Susan Edmonstone Ferrier.

“Her writing stands up very well in comparison with the big-name Scottish writers of her day, like Sir Walter Scott, but the most remarkable thing about Ferrier is that memory of her has all but disappeared,” McDermid told the Observer this weekend, as she prepared for the launch of a city-wide project called New Year’s Resurrection that will run until 25 January.

Using light displays designed by the Edinburgh-based specialists Double Take Projections and sound installations from Michael John McCarthy, Pippa Murphy and RJ McConnell, the crime writer plans to bring Ferrier back to life in the streets and steep “wynds” she once walked.

“I don’t think anything like this has ever been done before,” said McDermid, who is best known for her novel The Wire in the Blood. “As far as I know, there has never been an attempt to tell one story across 12 sites in one city.”

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Val McDermid