August 19th, 2021 by Jane Turner
This review of The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone comes via a Blog Tour organised by Random Things. The Great Silence is published by Orenda Books today, 19 August 2021. It’s my very great pleasure to review this on date of publication! I received a free copy of the ebook.
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.
Daughter Jenny and grand-daughter Hannah have their hands full too: the mysterious circumstances of a dying woman have led 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 a 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.
Thoroughly enjoyed this and going back to read the first two!
As my first introduction to the Skelfs, I can assure you, they’re quite the family.
Matriarch Dorothy is originally from California, and runs the funeral business after the death of her husband, Jim, as well as running the household and the private investigation business. And she’s a drummer. Dorothy also has a soft spot for waifs and strays, evidenced by 15yo lodger and drummer, Abi, who’s living in the house after family trauma.
Jenny is Dorothy’s daughter, living her life on alert since her murderous (*insert descriptive expletive*) ex-husband, Craig, is on the run. Craig’s specific crimes are captured in earlier books and just touched on here, but Jenny has totally justifiable fear. She gave up a relationship for it…
Hannah is Jenny’s 21yo daughter, just graduating Edinburgh University with a physics degree. Hannah is scarred and scared by her dad, comforted by girlfriend Indy, but looking forward to a PhD placement while she works with the family.
The Great Silence has short chapters and jumps from point of view to point of view, the chapters each being one of the Skelf’s specific stories. The writing is pretty darn good and flows very well. The short chapters hold the attention, and the three stories carry through brilliantly – touching here and there – and all coming to conclusions at different points. There’s comedy and mystery – I actually giggled! (No spoilers!)
What comes through more than anything, though, is the Skelf’s dedication to family and Johnstone’s love of Edinburgh. Reading this was like taking a wee tour of the city…
Go pay the Skelf’s a visit. You’ll love them as much as I do.
Now, I’m off to read the first two!
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.
Doug Johnstone will be talking at Bloody Scotland (Scotland’s Crime Writing Festival) on Sat 18 September. (And The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers are performing too!)
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