The Great Silence – Doug Johnstone (The Skelfs #3)

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.

Book Info: Print length: 363 pages. Publisher: Orenda Books. Publication date: 19 June 2021

Doug Johnstone is the author of fifteen novels, most recently The Space Between Us (2023). Several of his books have been bestsellers, The Big Chill (2020) was longlisted for the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year, while A Dark Matter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015) were all 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 two decades including festivals, libraries, universities, schools, prisons and a funeral directors.

Doug is a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow and works as a mentor and manuscript assessor for many organisations, including The Literary Consultancy, Scottish Book Trust and New Writing North. He’s been an arts journalist for over twenty years and has also written many short stories and screenplays. He is a songwriter and musician with six albums and three EPs released, and plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also co-founder of the Scotland Writers Football Club.

My Review.

This is the 3rd book in the fabulous Skelf series featuring Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah Skelf. If you haven’t yet met the Skelfs, I would strongly recommend you start with book 1 A Dark Matter and then book 2 The Big Chill as book 3 The Great Silence follows on almost immediately after book 2 finishes.

If you are looking for a book containing funny, flawed and totally relatable female characters then this is the series for you. Set in Edinburgh, the story centres around the 3 generations of the Skelfs, Dorothy the matriach, Jenny her daughter and Hannah the grand-daughter.

Having taken over the family funeral home and private investigation business in the first book, the Skelfs find themselves dealing with yet more unusual and strange cases. From a severed foot, a wild animal on the loose, messages from outer space and the gigolo and the dying pensioner, The Great Silence has everything you could possibly need in a book.

There are some really uncomfortable topics raised in this story, (incest, child abuse, suicide) but once again the author has managed to deal with this sensitively and delicately.

With quick and pacy chapters, clever and sharp dialogue, it was a pleasure to meet up with these wonderful characters again.

I look forward to reading book 4 Black Hearts soon.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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