Book 1

A Dark Matter

by Doug Johnstone

Published 23 January 2020
Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, gripping page-turning and darkly funny new series.

***Longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***

'An engrossing and beautifully written tale that bears all the Doug Johnstone hallmarks in its warmth and darkly comic undertones' Herald Scotland

'Gripping and blackly humorous' Observer

'I was addicted from the first page; gripping, gritty and darkly funny as hell' Erin Kelly

'A Dark Matter showcases a writer at the peak of his powers, except that with every book, Doug Johnstone just gets better' Val McDermid

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Meet the Skelfs: well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators...

When patriarch Jim dies, it's left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events.

Dorothy discovers mysterious payments to another woman, suggesting that Jim wasn't the husband she thought he was. Hannah's best friend Mel has vanished from university, and the simple adultery case that Jenny takes on leads to something stranger and far darker than any of them could have imagined.

As the women struggle to come to terms with their grief, and the demands of the business threaten to overwhelm them, secrets from the past emerge, which change everything...

A compelling, tense and shocking thriller and a darkly funny and warm portrait of a family in turmoil, A Dark Matter introduces a cast of unforgettable characters, marking the start of an addictive new series.

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'A fiendish mystery that is also deeply moving and laced with suitably dark humour ... set to be one of the books of the year' Mark Billingham

'Emotionally complex, richly layered and darkly funny. An addictive blend of Case Histories and Six Feet Under' Chris Brookmyre

'This dark but touching thriller makes for a thoroughly enjoyable slice of Edinburgh noir' Mary Paulson-Ellis

'This enjoyable mystery is also a touching and often funny portrayal of grief, as the three tough but tender main characters pick up the pieces and carry on: more, please' Guardian

'A tense ride ... strong, believable characters' Kerry Hudson, Big Issue

'They are all wonderful characters: flawed, funny, brave - and well set up for a series. I wouldn't call him cosy, but there's warmth to Johnstone's writing' Sunday Times

Book 2

The Big Chill

by Doug Johnstone

Published 20 August 2020
Running private-investigator and funeral-home businesses means trouble is never far away, and the Skelf women take on their most perplexing, chilling cases yet in Book Two of the darkly funny, devastatingly tense and addictive Skelfs series!

***Longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year***

‘Compelling, compassionate … just brilliant. This series gets better with every book. I cannot get enough of the Skelfs’ Mark Billingham

‘Brilliantly drawn and blackly comic’ Herald Scotland

‘Confirms the Skelfs as a classic crime clan. I can’t wait for the next one’ Erin Kelly

‘I LOVE the Skelfs … The only problem with The Big Chill is that you’ll devour it so fast you’ll feel as bereft as one of the Skelfs’ clients. Doug Johnstone has murdered sleep’ Val McDermid

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Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral that matriarch Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life. 

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves sucked into an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series, which reboots the classic PI novel while asking the big existential questions, all with a big dose of pitch-black humour.

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‘Exceptional … Johnstone seamlessly presents their stories with depth, elegance, and a delicate touch of wry humor as they get difficult jobs done with grace and kindness. This is a must for those seeking strong, authentic, intelligent female protagonists’ Publishers Weekly

‘Emotionally complex, richly layered and darkly funny. An addictive blend of Case Histories and Six Feet Under‘ Chris Brookmyre

‘Johnstone’s intuitive depiction of this trinity of resilient women is never less than flawless, in this tale punctuated by emotional depth and moments of dark humour...’ Raven Crime Reads

Praise for The Skelfs series

***Shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***

‘An engrossing and beautifully written tale that bears all the Doug Johnstone hallmarks in its warmth and darkly comic undertones’ Herald Scotland

‘Gripping and blackly humorous’ Observer

‘This dark but touching thriller makes for a thoroughly enjoyable slice of Edinburgh noir’ Mary Paulson-Ellis

‘This enjoyable mystery is also a touching and often funny portrayal of grief, as the three tough but tender main characters pick up the pieces and carry on: more, please’ Guardian

‘A tense ride strong, believable characters’ Kerry Hudson, Big Issue

‘They are all wonderful characters: flawed, funny, brave and well set up for a series. I wouldn’t call him cosy, but there’s warmth to Johnstone’s writing’ Sunday Times

Book 3

The Great Silence

by Doug Johnstone

Published 1 August 2021
The discovery of a human foot in an Edinburgh park, the inexplicable circumstances of a dying woman, and the missing daughter of Jenny’s violent ex-husband present the Skelf women with their most challenging – and deadly – cases yet… Book THREE in the addictive The Skelfs series!

‘Simply stunning. Tense, funny and deeply moving’ Mark Billingham

‘If you loved Iain Banks, you’ll devour the Skelfs series’ Erin Kelly

‘Nobody portrays modern Edinburgh better than Doug Johnstone. The Great Silence speaks volumes about the power of story’ Val McDermid

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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.
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‘This is their third outing and the stories get better each time … Told with a wry humour and affection, the novel underlines just how accomplished Johnstone has become’ Daily Mail

‘The power of this book lies in the warm personalities and dark humour of the Skelfs, and by the end readers will be just as interested in their relationships with each other as the mysteries they are trying to solve’ Scotsman

‘Remarkable’ Sunday Times Crime Club STAR PICK

‘Keeps you hungry from page to page. A crime reader can’t ask anything more’ The Sun

‘Mysteries aplenty … a poignant reflection on grief and the potential for healing that lies within us all. A proper treat’ Mary Paulson-Ellis

‘A thrilling, atmospheric book, set in the dark streets of Edinburgh. That great city really came alive for me in this gripping tale. Move over Ian Rankin, Doug Johnstone is coming through!’ Kate Rhodes

‘An unstoppable, thrilling, bullet train of a book that cleverly weaves in family and intrigue, and has real emotional impact. I totally loved it’ Helen Fields

‘This enjoyable mystery is also a touching and often funny portrayal of grief ... more, please’ Guardian

‘Wonderful characters: flawed, funny and brave’ Sunday Times 

‘Exceptional … a must for those seeking strong, authentic, intelligent female protagonists’ Publishers Weekly

The Skelfs series has been:

***Shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***
***Longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year***
***Shortlisted for Amazon Publishing Capital Crime Thriller of the Year***

Book 4

Black Hearts

by Doug Johnstone

Published 29 September 2022
A faked death, an obsessive stalker, an old man claiming he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, and a devastating spectre from the past. The Skelfs are back in another explosive thriller, and this time things are more than personal…
 
‘A new outing for the Skelfs deserves dancing in the streets of Edinburgh' Val McDermid
 
‘Tense, funny and deeply moving’ Mark Billingham
 
‘A total delight to be returned to the dark, funny, compulsive world of the Skelfs … Johnstone never fails to entertain whilst packing a serious emotional punch. Brilliant!’ Gytha Lodge
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Death is just the beginning…


The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.

A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger. An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.

As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…

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‘The Skelfs keep getting better and better. Compelling and compassionate characters, with a dash of physics and philosophy thrown in’ Ambrose Parry
 
‘Expertly written, with poise, insight and compassion … How wonderful to be immersed once more in the world of the Skelfs, three generations of indomitable women who light up Edinburgh's literary pantheon’ Mary Paulson-Ellis
 
’If you loved Iain Banks, you’ll devour the Skelfs series’ Erin Kelly
 
‘Dynamic and poignant … Johnstone balances the cosmos, music, death and life, and wraps it all in a compelling mystery’ Marni Graff
 
‘It’s difficult to come away from Black Hearts without feeling inspired, uplifted and in a way spiritually laundered’ Café Thinking
 
‘Just when you thought you couldn’t love the Skelfs more, Doug Johnstone finds a way to turn up the heat’ Live & Deadly
 
Praise for The Skelfs series

***Shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***
***Longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year***
***Shortlisted for Amazon Publishing Capital Crime Thriller of the Year***


‘An engrossing and beautifully written tale that bears all the Doug Johnstone hallmarks in its warmth and darkly comic undertones’ Herald Scotland

‘Gripping and blackly humorous’ Observer

‘A tense ride strong, believable characters’ Kerry Hudson, Big Issue

‘The power of this book, though, lies in the warm personalities and dark humour of the Skelfs, and by the end readers will be just as interested in their relationships with each other as the mysteries they are trying to solve’ Scotsman

‘Remarkable’ Sunday Times

‘Keeps you hungry from page to page. A crime reader can’t ask anything more’ The Sun
 
‘A thrilling, atmospheric book, set in the dark streets of Edinburgh. Move over Ian Rankin, Doug Johnstone is coming through!’ Kate Rhodes

‘An unstoppable, thrilling, bullet train of a book that cleverly weaves in family and intrigue, and has real emotional impact. I totally loved it’ Helen Fields

‘This enjoyable mystery is also a touching and often funny portrayal of grief ... more, please’ Guardian

‘Wonderful characters: flawed, funny and brave’ Sunday Times

‘Exceptional … a must for those seeking strong, authentic, intelligent female protagonists’ Publishers Weekly