Doug Johnstone is the author of four novels, most recently Hit & Run, acclaimed by Ian Rankin as 'a great slice of noir' and by Irvine Welsh as 'a grisly parable for our times'. He is also a freelance journalist, a songwriter and musician, and has a PhD in nuclear physics. He lives in Edinburgh.
Author photo © Chris Scott
If you’re hoping for another nail-biter in Doug Johnstone’s popular Skelfs novels, you won’t be disappointed – and if you’re new here, well there’s much to enjoy. The third instalment in the series doesn’t waste time with back stories or explaining who’s who; we hop right to the action. What we do get, though, an introduction to the Skelfs, three generations of women who run a funeral business in Edinburgh – who also happen to be private investigators. Dorothy, the matriarch, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah are quickly embroiled in a mystery after a human foot is discovered in a park. From there, the plot expands far and wide into quite dark, even absurdist territories. But the strength of the novel is in the characters, with each chapter following one of the Skelf women. This trio, flawed but fair, elevates the book above your average crime novel. You’ll have to suspend disbelief at times but if you’re looking for a thrilling ride, this won’t leave you short-changed.
A stimulating, provocative brew containing drama, intrigue, dark humour, and thoughtful contemplation. It shouldn’t work, yet it does! The Skelf women return for a second outing running their funeral home and private investigation business side by side. Still affected by the turmoil from the first book in the series A Dark Matter (do read this first), investigations begin after a car crashes into the grave at a funeral. The first sentence is a corker, and sets the tone. Each chapter is headed by one of the three Skelf women, with the individual voices of grandmother Dorothy, her daughter Jenny, and granddaughter Hannah independently vibrant. I particularly like the multi-generational aspect to this series with the storyline bustling from one woman to the next. There is a fair bit of death to be found here, but where there’s death there is life too. All the small things that make up our existence, plus some huge pummelling emotions such as grief and anger are on offer. Doug Johnstone paints a multi-dimensional 360 degree vibrant view, and sparked a heady mix of thoughts and feelings as I read. The Big Chill is an energetic, colourful, and dare I say entertaining read that encourages both smirks and reflection.
Piercing, wonderfully real and so very readable, this is another cracking novel from Doug Johnstone. Set in and around a funeral home in Edinburgh, three generations of Skelf women arrange funerals and handle a little private investigation on the side. I love Doug Johnstone’s writing, it feels so authentic, yet he has the ability to get under the skin and nudge new thoughts and feelings into being. Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah are simply wonderful, and Edinburgh itself sits brooding in the background. It’s the small detail that really matters here, encouraging the most vivid and intense picture to form. As I came to the end I realised I wanted to hear more about these women, and later learned there is to be a series, so, so pleased! A Dark Matter, sitting as it does in death, crime, and wrong-doing, still felt like a breath of fresh air, it really is a fabulous read and I loved it!
This piercing and raw, yet sensitive and beautiful read really spoke to me, it’s a stunner. 17-year-old Tyler finds himself caught between a rock and an impossibly hard place. Forced to break into houses by his older brother, life heads in a hopeless downward spiral when they disturb an occupant coming home and violence shatters Tyler’s life. Doug Johnstone writes with true eloquence, you really don’t need more than 230 pages when the writing is this good. True empathy and joy dance across the page even when chased down by brutality. I read this in one sitting, absolutely hooked yet almost afraid to reach the end. I had no idea as to how the story was going to finish, a part of me felt hopeless, yet I was full of hope at the same time. Tyler is going to stay with me, as he has taken up lodging in my heart. ‘Breakers' is meaningful, moving, undeniably wonderful storytelling, I adored every single word and it comes as highly recommended from me.
Brilliantly constructed speculative crime fiction A classic whodunit Dark psychological suspense Doug Johnstone returns with his most explosive and original thriller yet... Short, sharp, punchy. As a reimagined Edinburgh sits with a volcano on the doorstep, volcanologist Surtsey discovers the very dead body of her lover, and a split-second decision turns her entire world upside down. Doug Johnstone sets the pace from the very beginning, fast moving chapters kept my thoughts whirring. Surtsey is a fascinating character, living her life in the moment, her actions reverberated across the surface of the pages. I could feel her shock, her confusion, yet she didn’t allow me close enough to form a bond, consequently I found myself evaluating, sifting, perhaps even judging. It feels as though a reckoning is thundering towards Surtsey, and I sat waiting, expectantly tense, ready to view the outcome. ‘Fault Lines’ cranks up the volume on original, yet feels intensely raw, earthy, and real, for a short book, it packs a mighty wallop.
November 2013 Book of the Month. A tense tale of disappearance and violent death in Edinburgh, with a red herring or two and a nice emotional edge. Mark is a photographer and while filming beached whales gets a call to say his pregnant wife has not collected their boy, Nathan, from school. Things then get pretty nasty with the sex trafficking trade at the centre of some violent scenes. What makes this a bit different is that the little boy is well written and the dad’s relationship with him convincing and touching, an unusual element in a thriller.
Sitting in the departure lounge of Kirkwall Airport, Finn Sullivan just wants to get off Orkney. But then he meets the mysterious and dangerous Maddie Pierce, stepping in to save her from some unwanted attention, and his life is changed forever. Set against the brutal, unforgiving landscape of Orkney, CRASH LAND is a psychological thriller steeped in guilt, shame, lust, deception and murder.
Struggling to come to terms with the suicide of her teenage son, Ellie lives in the shadows of the Forth Road Bridge, lingering on its footpaths and swimming in the waters below. One day she talks down another suicidal teenager, Sam, and sees for herself a shot at redemption, the chance to atone for her son's death. But even with the best intentions, she can't foresee the situation she's falling headlong into - a troubled family, with some very dark secrets of their own. From #1 bestselling author of Gone Again, The Jump is a hugely moving contemporary thriller, and a stunning portrait of an unlikely heroine.
'Calling to mind the best of Harlan Coben, Johnstone shows us how quickly an ordinary life can take one dark turn and nothing is ever the same again.' Megan Abbott, author of The Fever From the author of the bestselling thriller Gone Again... Meet Martha. It's the first day of her new job as intern at Edinburgh's The Standard. But all's not well at the ailing newspaper, and Martha is carrying some serious baggage of her own. Put straight onto the obituary page, she takes a call from a former employee who seems to commit suicide while on the phone, something which echoes with her own troubled past. Setting in motion a frantic race around modern-day Edinburgh,The Dead Beat traces Martha's desperate search for answers to the dark mystery of her parents' past. Soundtracked by and interspersed with a series of gigs from the alternative music scene of her parents' generation in the early '90s, Doug Johnstone's latest page-turner is a wild ride of a thriller, and a perfect follow-on to his #1 Kindle bestseller, Hit & Run.
A rollicking and hugely enjoyable contemporary novel describing the outrageous mid-winter tour around Scotland of a group of musicians called 'The Ossians'. The band's driving force is twenty-four-year-old lead singer, Connor - intelligent but self-destructive, pretentious but charismatic, gloriously opinionated and with an extraordinary ability to get beaten up. The band is on the verge of signing a major record deal before setting off on a two-week tour of the cities and hinterland of Scotland, a tour expected to culminate triumphantly in a defining Glasgow gig. On their travels there is a seagull massacre, hapless drug deals, a mysterious stalker, a radioactive beach, a bomb-testing range, an epileptic fit, a town full of riotous Russian submariners, deadly snowstorms, epiphanies, regular beatings and random shootings. The Ossians is both hilariously readable and satirically astute, a story of rock'n'roll obsession as well as a search for identity and a sense of community, written with delicious insight, pace and brio.
Your best mate just fell off a cliff in mysterious circumstances and you were the last person to see him alive. What do you do? Well, if you're David Lindsay from Arbroath, you get the hell out of there and don't return. Not for at least fifteen years. Until Nicola Cruickshank - yes, that Nicola, the girl you always fancied but never had the guts to approach - gets in touch and asks - no, demands - that you go back for a school reunion. To the place where it happened. The place you've been running from for fifteen years. Of course you go. Not to belatedly lay your mate to rest, but because you still fancy Nicola. The thing is, if you are David Lindsay, then returning to Arbroath isn't going to lay any ghosts to rest. And when someone else takes a dive off the cliffs - an act the locals have taken to calling 'tombstoning' - while David's there, he has a choice: run away again, or finally find out why people keep dying around him . . .
Driving home from a party with his girlfriend and brother, all of them drunk and high on stolen pills, Billy Blackmore accidentally hits someone in the night. In a panic, they all decide to drive off. But the next day Billy wakes to find he has to cover the story for the local paper. It turns out the dead man was Edinburgh's biggest crime lord and, as Billy struggles with what he's done, he is sucked into a nightmare of guilt, retribution and violence. From the author of the acclaimed Smokeheads, Hit & Run is another pitch-black psychological thriller.
Shortlisted for CrimeFest's Last Laugh Award Four friends, one weekend, gallons of whisky. What could go wrong? Driven by amateur whisky-nut Adam, four late-thirties ex-university mates are heading to Islay - the remote Scottish island world famous for its single malts - with a wallet full of cash, a stash of coke and a serious thirst. Over a weekend soaked in the finest cask strength spirit, they meet young divorcee Molly, who Adam has a soft spot for, her little sister Ash who has all sorts of problems and Molly's ex-husband Joe, a control freak who also happens to be the local police. As events spiral out of control, they are all thrown into a nightmare that gets worse at every turn.