Today I am delighted to be able to share with you an extract from The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone, as part of the Random Things Blog Tour. This is the third book in the Skelfs series and I can’t wait to see where Doug Johnstone takes us next. Really looking forward to reading this one.
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.
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.
Jenny followed Dorothy into the kitchen.
‘Christ, Mum, is that the foot?’
There was a poo bag in the middle of the kitchen table the size and shape of a foot.
‘Sorry,’ Dorothy said, scooping it up by the tied handles and swinging it over to the kitchen worktop. ‘I had to put it somewhere so the dog or cat didn’t get it.’
‘There are six body fridges downstairs.’
‘All full.’ Dorothy filled the kettle at the sink and switched it on.
Jenny looked at the two giant whiteboards on one wall of their kitchen-diner, one for
funerals, the other for PI cases. The funeral one was full, lots of death work. The PI one was less busy, just an ongoing missing person and a possible unfaithful husband, their bread and butter these days.
The room filled with the whoosh of the kettle as Dorothy made tea and wiped the table where the foot had been with a wet cloth.
‘Nice health and safety,’ Jenny said as she went to the window, took in the view of
Bruntsfield Links. Late afternoon and the park was full, families and students, tourists getting some unexpected sun. Her dad’s ashes were scattered out there and she liked to think his spirit had soaked into the grass, although she didn’t believe in any of that. But then she thought the same thing every time she looked out of this window, wasn’t that a kind of belief? Working in funerals had made her realise that truth didn’t matter much in the face of faith. The private-investigator stuff was more about truth, but she wasn’t convinced that knowing the truth helped.
Schrödinger skulked in, avoided her as usual, then stretched out in a sliver of sunlight on an armchair. The cat still had the wiry frame and disdain of his street-cat roots. Einstein followed the cat into the room, sniffed up at the foot in a bag on the worktop, then wagged his tail at Schrödinger, who ignored him. It was pathetic, really, but they both seemed to get something out of the relationship, otherwise why do it?
‘I can’t believe my daughter is getting married,’ Jenny said, turning to her mum.
Dorothy was smiling. ‘I know, our little Hannah.’
Jenny was a long way from mushy about marriage, one failed attempt with a fucking murderer made sure of that, but Hannah and Indy were rock solid, so much stronger than anything she’d had, a fact that gave her a twinge of regret.
Dorothy placed mugs of tea on the table and sat down. ‘Do you remember how your dad used to sit her on his shoulders in the garden when she was little? Bounce up and down, trying to reach the wood pigeons in the trees. I thought it would kill him.’
She trailed off. Grief never died, it lay dormant then surprised you with painful waves at random times. Playing with his granddaughter didn’t kill him but a heart attack did.
‘She’s lucky to have Indy,’ Jenny said.
She was thrilled for Hannah, but her own marriage had failed and now she’d turned her back on a guy she might’ve had a second chance with. Dorothy’s marriage of fifty years was over, but at least she was back in the game with Thomas. Jenny had met him in the kitchen on a few early mornings recently, so he was staying over.
Dorothy sipped her tea. ‘We’re all lucky to have each other.’ A statement so obvious it didn’t need a reply, but it was good to hear the truth.