Black Hearts; tense, dark and explosive

Crikey, I am really going to miss these Skelf women as I have been spending top quality time with them lately.

Black Hearts is the fourth book in the brilliant Skelfs crime series written by Doug Johnstone. Since the Skelfs first appeared in early 2020 I have been a massive fan. The characters are so human, refreshing and in their own unique ways, kick ass!

Having reviewed the first two books in the series (A Dark Matter and The Big Chill), I hadn’t quite got round to reading the third book, The Great Silence. So when I was invited to take part in the blog tour of Black Hearts, not only did I jump at the opportunity to participate, but I also made sure I read the third instalment beforehand. I’m so glad I did as I was completely gripped by The Great Silence. It also enhanced my enjoyment of Black Hearts, increasing my understanding of the three generations of Skelf women, which ultimately helped me empathise with them more.

Black Hearts is set a year on from the explosive drama of The Great Silence. And believe me, this new novel is even more explosive as we follow the stories of 72 year old Dorothy Skelf, the matriarch of the family, her daughter Jenny who is on an almighty self-destructive path (understandably in my view) and granddaughter Hannah who has attracted the creepy attention of a stalker.

Doug Johnstone

As in the previous Skelf novels, Doug Johnstone has developed enthralling plot threads that skilfully weave together, intensifying the powerful drama of the story. These plot threads give us a greater insight into the characters, brilliantly portraying them as real, human and flawed. For example, Jenny who is haunted by the horrifying devastation of the previous novel increasingly relies on alcohol and sleeping pills to try and cope with life. She has been ‘pushed’ by Dorothy and Hannah to see a therapist. However the therapy Jenny is receiving is definitely not professional, especially in her vulnerable state. I’m not going to say any more as I do not want to give away any spoilers for you. But Jenny’s story and her vulnerability really hooked me in.

Black Hearts still maintains the dark, dry humour of the previous novels, but for me, it is also more poignant. With compassion and sensitivity, the narrative explores the complexity of grief and how grief impacts on people in different ways. The sub plot involving the wind phone, which is from modern Japanese culture to help people stay connected to their loved ones after they die, is so beautiful and informative, but also heart wrenching.

Another thing I love about Black Hearts is the sense of setting that Doug Johnstone evokes. Along with the previous Skelf novels, Black Hearts is set in Edinburgh. The city comes alive in the narrative straight away – Edinburgh is practically a main character alongside Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah.

Johnstone ends this latest instalment on an almighty cliff hanger – so it is very clear that there is more to come from the Skelf women. I am so happy about this! 🙂

You could probably read Black Hearts as a standalone book and still really enjoy it as it is a cracker of a read. However if you fancy reading this new book but haven’t read any of the previous books, my advice is that you go back and start at the beginning. The Skelf series has been optioned for TV, and in my view deservedly so, as these are really fantastic, character driven, explosive stories.

Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the Black Hearts blog tour to mark its release, which is published by Orenda books on 29 September. So it will be available for you all to buy in paperback or as an e-book soon!

I’m giving you the chance to win your very own copy of Black Hearts . All you need to do for your chance to win is to follow me on Instagram via @noveldelights, like the Instagram post about this giveaway and tag yourself in the post. Also share the book love by tagging a friend too 🙂 . Do this by 6pm on Thursday 29 September (Black Hearts publication day) and you’ll have a chance of winning. The winner will be announced the next day on Friday 30 September. Please note that this competition is only open to people with a UK address.

Good luck everyone!

And to read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour of Black Hearts, please see below.

Happy reading everyone! 🙂

1 Comment

  1. September 6, 2022 / 8:57 am

    Thanks so much for the blog tour support xx

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