Keeping on top of the family funeral directors’ and privateinvestigation 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.
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 and visit his website.
My thoughts: the Skelfs are back in their third outing and I am thrilled. This series just gets better and better. This time there’s a big cat on the loose, stray dead people feet, more funerals to direct, more crimes to investigate. Awful Craig has returned to cause more havoc in his family’s lives, but Jenny’s on his case. Hannah is helping a future colleague who thinks aliens are messaging him – or that someone’s playing a mean prank. Dorothy is looking into the feet Einstein finds in the park and the jaguar who seems to be living there. Indy’s grandparents have come over to see her, surprise, which means digging up the past, and Abi’s past is coming after her too.
The Skelfs (I include Indy, Abi and Archie in this too) are a tough bunch, but they treat all of their clients, living and dead, with kindness and respect. From young women who die suddenly to old women who can’t understand why their children are so awful. They’ve had to be resilient themselves but they know that not everyone has the support and love they share.
Honestly, this is just such a brilliant series, full of black humour (the best kind), interesting characters, crazy plots and as it might be made into a TV series, I was also playing fan cast as I read it, trying to work out who I’d like to see play the Skelf women. Any ideas? I think Lily Tomlin would make a great Dorothy, that Californian hippy in Edinburgh vibe would suit her. Or Dame Judi Dench – she could definitely pull it off. Nicola Walker as Jenny maybe or Laura Fraser, but I’m stumped on Hannah and Indy. Some gorgeous up and comers perhaps. Let me know your ideas.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.