The 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.
So much seemed to have happened to the Skelf household that it was hard to know what lay in store for them next. We needn’t have worried as Johnstone had plans, plans that were none he less exciting than previous episodes yet had a more personal feel to them. I felt as if Johnstone was truly getting under the skin of his characters, that he was more comfortable being that bit more up close and personal. The women had all had to deal with so much but this felt like a settling of scores, of putting aside the old and moving onto the new.
Johnstone gave them their own individual case to investigate, as though each were tailored to their strengths but also their weaknesses, to bring out their vulnerabilities, to test them
Dorothy, still the eccentric Californian now happy in her relationship with detective Thomas, still bashing the drums and also my favourite. Johnstone thrust her into the mystery of the dead foot, and the sleek black Jaguar brilliantly named Whiskers. We followed her on the hunt for seriously bad embalmers and big cat keepers fascinated by that weird and wonderful underground world of Johnstone’s creation. Her own brush with Whisper led to heartbreak but also a final conclusion to the mystery of waif Abi’s father.
Jenny was one angry woman who skulked around determined to find her escapee ex husband, Craig, who still reeled from her break up with boyfriend Liam. When Craig’s daughter disappeared Johnstone teamed her up with Mum Fiona as they twisted and twirled with myriad dead ends to find her. I loved Johnstone’s Fiona, a distraught mother hell bent on truth, angry, without reasonable thought who bulldozed her way through Craig’s past associates and the police. Johnstone gave them a truly explosive end, a door shut, new possibilities that I cannot wait to read.
And what about Hannah, Jenny’s daughter, Dorothy’s granddaughter? Johnstone was more gentle, gave her Jose, PHD student obsessed with planets and extraterrestrial life. Could the messages he was receiving be from another world or as Hannah soon discovered was it something more complex, more personal. You felt she deserved the happjness she found with Indy, her girlfriend that finally life was exactly where she needed it to be.
Edinburgh was its own character, the leafy parks, the streets and coast provided the perfect setting for the Skelf’s as they whizzed around the city in pursuit of people and answers. It was a city you knew Johnstone loved, the place his characters felt so comfortable in as they guided us around, the perfect tourist guides, a great advertisement that made you want to visit.
All three women seemed to have to dig that more deeply into their own feelings, to confront demons that had hung over them for so long. It was Johnstone tying up the loose ends, closing a door and opening a new chapter that I am so desperate to read and shall be clogging up his Twitter feed telling him to hurry up.
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of The Great Silence to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
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.