Follows the critically acclaimed bestselling A Dark Matter and The Big Chill
featuring three generations of women in the Skelf family…
funeral directors and part-time private investigators
– The Great Silence
[ About the Book ]
The discovery of a human foot in an Edinburgh park, the inexplicable circumstances of a dying woman, and the missing daughter of Jenny’s violent ex-husband present the Skelf women with their most challenging – and deadly – cases yet…
Keeping on top of the family funeral directors’ and private-investigation businesses is no easy task for the Skelf women, and when matriarch Dorothy discovers a human foot while walking the dog, a perplexing case presents itself … with potentially deadly results.
Daughter Jenny and grand-daughter Hannah have their hands full too: The mysterious circumstances of a dying woman lead them into an unexpected family drama, Hannah’s new astrophysicist colleague claims he’s receiving messages from outer space, and the Skelf’s teenaged lodger has yet another devastating experience.
Nothing is clear as the women are immersed ever deeper in their most challenging cases yet. But when the daughter of Jenny’s violent and fugitive ex-husband goes missing without trace and a wild animal is spotted roaming Edinburgh’s parks, real danger presents itself, and all three Skelfs are in peril.
[ My Review ]
The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone is the third book in the bestselling McIlvanney-shortlisted Skelfs series. Just published in paperback original August 19th with Orenda books, it is described as ‘taut, dark, warmly funny and unafraid to ask big questions – of us all – the much-anticipated third instalment in the addictive, unforgettable Skelfs series, and the stakes are higher than ever.‘
The Skelf family are an eclectic bunch of women with their fingers in many pies based out of a ‘Victorian townhouse that the Skelf family had owned for a hundred years, running a funeral business and, more recently, a private investigator’s.’ Dorothy Skelf, the matriarch of the family, is widowed, following the death of her husband Jim, and is now assisted by her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah. Dorothy is in her seventies, an American with a passion for her drum kit, who has become an institution in the community. With a heart of gold, Dorothy picks up waifs and strays, always ready to lend a hand when the need arises.
Jenny lives alongside the shadow of her ex-husband Craig. Their relationship soured many years previously. He is Hannah’s Dad and a notoriously dangerous criminal who is still obsessed with Jenny. Jenny is tough, hardened by years of exposure to Craig’s emotional and physical battering. She looks for comfort in a glass of gin and Dorothy worries for her health and safety.
Hannah is a complex individual. Highly intelligent, she is about to graduate but is always alert to the danger of her father. The Skelf family dynamic is a fractured one. Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah obviously love each other but their daily lives are constantly punctuated by drama and danger.
In The Great Silence Dorothy is shocked, but intrigued, to see her dog unearth a human foot in the local park. With the police overworked and under-resourced, Dorothy makes the decision to try and solve the mystery. It has always been her belief that everyone deserves a proper burial and where there is a foot, there is a body. Using her recent P.I. experience, she sets off to see what she can find out, unearthing a lot more than what she had bargained for.
While Hannah is hired by a colleague to uncover the source of alien transmissions, Jenny finds herself caught up in a family drama after being offered what appeared to be, at first look, a straight-forward investigative case. All three women are busy with the P.I. work while also running the funeral parlour but, as is typical with The Skelfs, nothing ever runs smoothly.
The Skelf women are a force on to themselves. They have an ability to cut through the bull of life and just get on with things. With a unique humour they remain highly supportive of each other and are always ready to step up when required. Dorothy is the lynchpin keeping the family together. With her indomitable personality she really is a true force of nature.
Doug Johnstone manages to create wonderful atmospheric and sometimes dark scenes that really come alive through his writing. Did you know that he is also ‘the drummer for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a crime-writing supergroup featuring Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste‘ which explains Dorothy’s passion for drumming!
Which of course also means there is a Spotify Playlist by Doug Johnstone for The Skelfs 👇
The plot of The Great Silence is best described in these words of Doug Johnstone- ‘Body parts, big cats, messages from space, disinterment, indie rock, suicide, incest, kidnap, bad embalming, poisoning ‘. It is a riot of a read with so many twists and turns, leaving the reader at times aghast, feeling utterly helpless, while at the same time inspired by these headstrong and determined women.
A host of wonderful characters make up this compelling Edinburgh-based series and, with Doug Johnstone’s flair for authenticity and humour, The Great Silence is another highly enjoyable addition.
[ Bio ]
Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve previous novels, most recently The Big Chill (2020). Several of his books have been bestsellers and three, A Dark Matter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015), were shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year.
A Dark Matter, the first in Doug’s first-ever series, was also shortlisted for the Capital Crime/Amazon Publishing Readers Awards. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions over the last decade – including at a funeral parlour ahead of writing A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for over twenty years.
Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three solo EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.
Twitter ~ @doug_johnstone
Website ~ dougjohnstone.com