The #Bookvent Calendar 2022 – Day Seventeen


#Bookvent – Celebrating my top reads of 2022

My day seventeen #bookvent selection is the fourth book in one of my favourite series. An unexpected delivery as this was originally planned as a trilogy, the series features a trio of women, three generations of one family, who really have made such an overwhelming impact on readers, myself included, that it’s impossible not to take them to our hearts. This instalment has a particularly emotional core, as well as a pocket of suspense and tension which really sets you on edge. It will come as no surprise that my seventeenth pick is …


Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

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…

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…


I love this series. Love the protagonists – Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah, three generations of Skelf women who manage to co-run a funeral business alongside a private detective agency – and love the heart, spirit, melancholy and unexpected tension that Doug Johnstone packs into every chapter. The premise should not work and yet it really does, perhaps because the author blends the mystery, and the emotion, which his own love of science and music, to provide readers with a multi-faceted, often unexpected, and always highly entertaining and engrossing read. The author is the king of unique and memorable opening chapters, and this is no different, but it is the central themes of family, loss and refusal to let go which really make this an unforgettable read. We find all three of the women at somewhat of a crossroads in their life, all for very different reasons, and the author has created a pitch perfect portrayal of their battle against that sense of melancholy that threatens to overwhelm them all, for very different reasons. Whilst Hannah and Dorothy may appear more resilient than a very battle weary Jenny, each of them is bearing the scars of all that has come before, and it makes for a very contemplative read. The book still contains the usual veins of humour which keep it on the right side of bleak, but there is a real noticeable change in the tone of the book, all for the better in the case of this particular story.

This is a very emotional story, four very different families who each make an impact as they battle grief in their own unique ways. Doug Johnstone is a master manipulator, drawing forth a whole range of emotions as his narrative transitions seamlessly between pondering theoretical physics and astronomy, to navigating the spirit world. He hits the mark on every aspect of this story, leading us on towards a real high stakes ending which is almost as startling as it is seemingly inevitable. If you love the series, as I do, it’s impossible not to love this latest addition. Just prepare yourself to ride the wave of emotions that will inevitably come. Highly recommended.

You can read my full review right here.


Happy #bookvent reading all


4 thoughts on “The #Bookvent Calendar 2022 – Day Seventeen

    1. I love The Skelfs. Such a great series and although I always wondered how science, rock & roll, funerals and private investigations could possibly work, they really do. Doug Johnstone is a beautiful writer and they are fantastic characters.

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