I’m excited to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour for Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone, which is the fourth incredible instalment of his phenomenal The Skelfs series of books. Thank you as always to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this fantastic book.
About the book:
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…
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.
As someone who loved the first three books in Doug Johnstone’s brilliant series of books featuring The Skelfs, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Black Hearts, the latest instalment in the series and quite possibly the best one so far! As with the previous books, Black Hearts is an incredible, character driven story that is everything I hoped it would be and more. Although able to be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading the entire series from the very beginning which, in my opinion, would make for a much richer and more rewarding reading experience.
As before, the story alternates between the three generations of Skelf women as they continue to run the family business. Assisted by daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah, Dorothy combines burying the dead with helping the living. With a thread of dark humour running through it, Black Hearts catches up with the Skelf women as the events of the previous book continue to reverberate through their lives, the spectre of Jenny’s ex-husband Craig casting a dark shadow over them all.
Black Hearts is yet another deeply personal and action packed slice of Skelfs drama that I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into. Jenny is struggling with what happened in The Great Silence, her life seemingly spiraling out of control as she tries to come to terms with what her ex-husband and Hannah’s father, Craig, tried to do to them all, her actions becoming more and more erratic as the story continues. Then there’s Hannah, happily married to Indy, but with problems of her own as she draws the attention of a stalker, whose intentions towards her are unclear. And then there’s Dorothy, matriarch of the family, trying to hold everything together, but still unsure of her place in the world as she rebuilds her life after loss.
I love everything about this series. With strong female characters and a compelling storyline, I found myself once again completely immersed in the lives of the Skelf women, so much so that I didn’t even want to come up for air until the final page had been turned! With a fascinating cast of characters and a storyline that keeps you guessing throughout, this is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, I think one of the things I love most about this series of books is that they aren’t only thrilling crime novels with all the twists, turns and jaw droppingly shocking moments you would expect them to have, but they also tell the story of a family in turmoil, who are trying to come to terms with not only the death of a loved one, but also the long held secrets that have been kept hidden for so long, secrets that have the potential to change everything the three Skelf women thought they knew.
I fell in love with these strong but flawed women from the moment they were introduced, and have enjoyed seeing them begin to come into their own as the series continued, each contributing to the family and the business in their own unique way. In Black Hearts, everything that’s happened to them begins to take its toll, the cracks beginning to show as they continue their journey through grief. There’s a new rawness to all three Skelf women in this book that wasn’t there before, their innermost feelings exposed in such a way that I couldn’t help but fall even more deeply in love with them.
Fast paced, gripping and at times shocking, Black Hearts is a story with family at its heart and is another brilliantly written book in a series that I would highly recommend. Doug Johnstone’s sharp wit and dark humour comes through with every page in a story that peels back the layers of grief, giving an emotional insight into the many different ways that we as a human race experience it.
I’ve loved every moment of this brilliantly written and deftly plotted series and can’t wait to see what new adventures Doug Johnstone has in store for them next!
With characters who very quickly get under your skin, The Skelfs is a superb series of books that I adore. A dark, chilling and thought-provoking rollercoaster of a ride that is as warm and human as it is exciting. Simply outstanding!
Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone is available to pre-order now: