Tuesday 31 August 2021

The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone BLOG TOUR @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks #TheGreatSilence #TheSkelfs #BookReview


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 Skelfs' 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.     
Taut, dark, warmly funny and unafraid to ask big questions – of us all – The Great Silence is the much-anticipated third instalment in the addictive, unforgettable Skelfs series, and the stakes are higher than ever.

The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 19 August 2021 and is the third book in The Skelfs series. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, as part of this Blog Tour. 

I am a huge fan of Doug Johnstone's writing and The Skelfs series has a special place in my heart. I have been looking forward to The Great Silence ever since I finished the last of the series. 

Whilst you could read The Great Silence as a stand alone story, I do think, with this series, readers will benefit from reading the first two books; A Dark Matter (2019) and The Big Chill (2020) - both of these are currently available for Kindle at just 99p each. 

For anyone who isn't familiar with the series, The Skelfs are an Edinburgh family of three generations of women. The family have been undertakers for over one hundred years, and they also have a private investigation firm. The family is made up of Dorothy, in her seventies and originally from California; her daughter Jenny; mid-forties, divorced and living with her mother, and Jenny's daughter Hannah. Twenty-one, recently graduated from University and living nearby with her girlfriend Indy.

The family are quirky and unusual and incredibly loyal to each other. They may annoy each other sometimes, but they've been through such a lot, in a relatively short time, that there's really nothing that will destroy their family now. 

The story opens as Dorothy walks her dog Einstein across Brunsfield Links, in the city. Einstein goes off to explore the undergrowth and returns with a severed human foot in his mouth! Dorothy is one of those women who takes this in her stride, bundling it up into a dog-poo bag, taking it home and then calling in Thomas; local police officer, and also her boyfriend. 

This severed foot is just the beginning of a series of complex cases that the Skelfs are faced with, and not only do they have these outside occurrence to take up their time, they also have their own personal family issues that continue to rear their ugly heads. Not least, Jenny's ex-husband; an on-the-run murderer who is determined to get his revenge on his estranged family. 

Along with the Skelf women, there's a cast of supporting characters who add such depth to the plot lines. There's Thomas, black, Swedish, widowed and much younger than Dorothy. We have Indy; Hannah's girlfriend who is faced with the prospect of reliving the tragic deaths of her parents when her grandparents arrive from overseas, and there are the animals; incredible characters with personalities that match the humans for sure. 

Whilst a team of female detectives-cum-undertakers could sound a bit cosy crime, I can assure you that it is not! Doug Johnstone interweaves some really important and often disturbing themes into his storylines and is not afraid of a little violence or gore. There's a dark undercurrent of menace that pervades the story, with a brooding and hungry big cat on the loose, desperate and disturbed characters appearing from the past, and the damaging effects of grief just a few of the issues that are dealt with. 

With short, sharp chapters, alternating between the three female leads, this could be confusing, there's a lot packed into it. However, it's never a difficult read, it can be challenging, subject-wise, but the writing is excellent and the plot flows freely throughout. 

It's been an absolute delight to return to the incredible Skelf family. I have a lot of love for these characters, and the incredible Edinburgh setting. Doug Johnstone is an incredible talent. I adore this book. 

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. 

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. 

Follow Doug on Twitter @doug_johnstone and visit his website: dougjohnstone.com.

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