Because the dead can’t speak: The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone #bookreview #TheGreatSilence #20BooksOfSummer

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…
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 Skelf’s 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.


Hi and welcome to my review of The Great Silence, closing my Orenda Books week after an excerpt from This Is How We Are Human on Tuesday and my review of The Beresford on Thursday. And happy e-pub day to Doug Johnstone!

I first met the Skelfs in 2019. They were burning their husband/father/grandfather on a pyre in the garden and I fell in love with them right there and then. Three generations of women, strong women, kind women, flawed but fair women, I have to say I’m just about ready to quit my job and go work for the Skelfs! It might get somewhat perilous, but never a dull day!

Every outing with the Skelfs has been a huge pleasure and reading The Great Silence made me nostalgic. I think they have learnt a lot over these last couple of years, they have come into their own, each in her own way. From struggling to keep both the funeral home and the PI business up and running after the death of the pater familias and struggling in their private lives as well, I think they are finally where they are supposed to be, and that’s really all one could ask for at the end of a trilogy. Mind you, if Doug Johnstone were to decide to write a fourth Skelf novel I’d be all over that like wasps on spilled Coke!

The Great Silence is great fun, plain and simple. Stray embalmed feet, aliens seeking contact from outer space, an ex with murder on the mind, a sexy Italian toy boy, money-obsessed twins and wild cats on the loose. All of that and more in the span of 300 pages. There’s always a lot going on in the lives of the Skelfs, but it’s never been as busy or as crazy as it is now, and jumping from one case to another and to all that’s going on in the private lives of these women is not only super entertaining, it is also suspenseful and heart-warming and heart-breaking. And I loved every minute of it.

Another aspect that struck me even more in this book than in the previous ones is the astuteness and respect with which Doug portrays not just his characters, but their generations. Through the Skelfs he accurately sketches the differences in thought and actions without resorting to stereotypes. I love how seventy-something Dorothy is still so active (in every way) and quite modern, and how much she respects her granddaughter, and vice versa.

I said it when I reviewed A Dark Matter, and again when I reviewed The Big Chill, but apparently this has become the hill I want to die on: there is rhythm and music in Doug’s words and the writing flows so naturally that it’s impossible not to fly through the story. I really don’t know what more to tell you except pick it up and read it. Everything from the setting over the double business premise to the slightly scientific angle and the characters is just right, on point every single time, unique, beautiful, exciting. This entire trilogy has been brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough.

The Great Silence is out today in all digital formats and will be out in paperback on 19 August. (Pre)order directly from Orenda Books here.

Huge thanks to Orenda Books for the gorgeous proof! All opinions are still my own.

3 Responses

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *