Black Hearts



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…
‘A new outing for the Skelfs deserves dancing in the streets of Edinburgh' Val McDermid
‘Tense, funny and deeply moving’ Mark Billingham
‘A total delight to be returned to the dark, funny, compulsive world of the Skelfs … Johnstone never fails to entertain whilst packing a serious emotional punch. Brilliant!’ Gytha Lodge

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…


‘The Skelfs keep getting better and better. Compelling and compassionate characters, with a dash of physics and philosophy thrown in’ Ambrose Parry
‘Expertly written, with poise, insight and compassion … How wonderful to be immersed once more in the world of the Skelfs, three generations of indomitable women who light up Edinburgh's literary pantheon’ Mary Paulson-Ellis
’If you loved Iain Banks, you’ll devour the Skelfs series’ Erin Kelly
‘Dynamic and poignant … Johnstone balances the cosmos, music, death and life, and wraps it all in a compelling mystery’ Marni Graff
‘It’s difficult to come away from Black Hearts without feeling inspired, uplifted and in a way spiritually laundered’ Café Thinking
‘Just when you thought you couldn’t love the Skelfs more, Doug Johnstone finds a way to turn up the heat’ Live & Deadly
Praise for The Skelfs series

***Shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***
***Longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year***
***Shortlisted for Amazon Publishing Capital Crime Thriller of the Year***

‘An engrossing and beautifully written tale that bears all the Doug Johnstone hallmarks in its warmth and darkly comic undertones’ Herald Scotland

‘Gripping and blackly humorous’ Observer

‘A tense ride strong, believable characters’ Kerry Hudson, Big Issue

‘The power of this book, though, lies in the warm personalities and dark humour of the Skelfs, and by the end readers will be just as interested in their relationships with each other as the mysteries they are trying to solve’ Scotsman

‘Remarkable’ Sunday Times

‘Keeps you hungry from page to page. A crime reader can’t ask anything more’ The Sun
‘A thrilling, atmospheric book, set in the dark streets of Edinburgh. Move over Ian Rankin, Doug Johnstone is coming through!’ Kate Rhodes

‘An unstoppable, thrilling, bullet train of a book that cleverly weaves in family and intrigue, and has real emotional impact. I totally loved it’ Helen Fields

‘This enjoyable mystery is also a touching and often funny portrayal of grief ... more, please’ Guardian

‘Wonderful characters: flawed, funny and brave’ Sunday Times

‘Exceptional … a must for those seeking strong, authentic, intelligent female protagonists’ Publishers Weekly

Product Details

£8.99  £8.54
Orenda Books
Publish Date

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