"Going Underground: Edinburgh" by Jan-Andrew Henderson is a fascinating book and one I'd highly recommend to anyone wanting an alternative view of - in my view - the best city on Earth. It is a book that does much more than its title suggests, incorporating both a brief account of some of the more interesting bits of Edinburgh's history and quite a lot of engaging material about above-ground buildings, features and relics.
In his introduction, the author says: "This book is a collection of disparate things too. Firstly, it is a history of underground Edinburgh. What it is, who made it and the factual stories and weird legends attached to each part. Secondly, it is a guide to where everything is and how you can get to see it. It is also a pictorial account of what is down there, and what is above... Lastly, I've provided a handy ratings guide to what you can see and what I think are the most interesting attractions, including a supernatural rating (you'll be surprised how many ghost stories feature the Underground City)."
The publisher's blurb gives more detail about the book's coverage: "Edinburgh has a fascinating ‘Underground City’, much of which is open to the public. It is made up of many different aspects, with a turbulent and intriguing past stretching back hundreds of years. Features include hidden passages and cellars, ancient buried streets like Marlyn’s Wynd and Mary King’s Close (sealed after an outbreak of plague), castle dungeons and escape tunnels, a warren of vaults and chambers under Edinburgh’s mighty bridges, abandoned or repurposed rail tunnels, and anomalies like the strange subterranean dwelling of Gilmerton Cove. Award-winning author and historian Jan-Andrew Henderson explores the legendary world beneath the streets and locations of Edinburgh in this pictorial guide."
For me, the true measure of a book like this is a simple one. Is it a book that I am likely to want to refer back to in the future? The answer is a clear yes. I learned much that was interesting; and am likely to use it as a basis for exploration of some of the features it covers. There are downsides, though they are not major. I was surprised to find that although Edinburgh Castle is mentioned, nothing is said about its most spectacular and intriguing underground feature: the remains of David's Tower, entirely entombed within the later Half-Moon Battery that dominates eastern approaches to the castle. Much of the earlier tower remains and the upper parts of what is left have been opened to visitors to the castle. I also found a throwaway comment in the author's introduction rather jarring. The suggestion that Scotland is "a nation often accused of having a large chip on its shoulder" seemed to this (English-born) reviewer to be unnecessary and inaccurate and unlikely to appeal to a significant part of the book's probable audience. But don't let that put you off what really is a very good book.