Doug has had fifteen novels published:


Get it here in paperback, or here in ebook, or pick up copy at your local independent bookshop. I know for a fact that my local shop, The Portobello Bookshop, have signed copies, so check them out if you want one. 

Connecting will change everything…


Lennox is a troubled teenager with no family. Ava is eight months pregnant and fleeing her abusive husband. Heather is a grieving mother and cancer sufferer. They don’t know each other, but when a meteor streaks over Edinburgh, all three suffer instant, catastrophic strokes… 

…only to wake up the following day in hospital, miraculously recovered. 

When news reaches them of an octopus-like creature washed up on the shore near where the meteor came to earth, Lennox senses that some extra-terrestrial force is at play. With the help of Ava, Heather and a journalist, Ewan, he rescues the creature they call ‘Sandy’ and goes on the run. 

But they aren’t the only ones with an interest in the alien … close behind are Ava’s husband, the police and a government unit who wants to capture the creature, at all costs. And Sandy’s arrival may have implications beyond anything anyone could imagine…


Get it from your local independent book shop or on ebook here.

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 intertwines 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…

Black Hearts was published by Orenda Books in September 2022


Get it from your local independent book shop or on ebook here.

The discovery of a human foot in an Edinburgh park, the inexplicable circumstances of a dying woman, and the missing daughter of Jenny’s violent ex-husband present the Skelf women with their most challenging – and deadly – cases yet…

‘Simply stunning. Tense, funny and deeply moving’ Mark Billingham

‘If you loved Iain Banks, you’ll devour the Skelfs series’ Erin Kelly

‘I LOVE the Skelfs’ Val McDermid


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 … with potentially deadly results.

Daughter Jenny and grand-daughter Hannah have their hands full too: The mysterious circumstances of a dying woman lead 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 yet another 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, and the stakes are higher than ever.

The Great Silence was published by Orenda Books in August 2021


Get it from your local independent book shop or online here.

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral that matriarch Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves sucked into an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series, which reboots the classic PI novel while asking the big existential questions, all with a big dose of pitch-black humour. 

The Big Chill was published by Orenda Books in August 2020


ADM cover tagline Erin quote


Three generations of women from the Skelf family take over the family funeral home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, page-turning and darkly funny new series.

Meet the Skelfs: well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators. When patriarch Jim dies, it’s left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events.

Dorothy discovers mysterious payments to another woman, suggesting that Jim wasn’t the husband she thought he was. Hannah’s best friend Mel has vanished from university, and the simple adultery case that Jenny takes on leads to something stranger and far darker than any of them could have imagined.

As the women struggle to come to terms with their grief, and the demands of the business threaten to overwhelm them, secrets from the past emerge, which change everything. A compelling, tense and shocking thriller and a darkly funny and warm portrait of a family in turmoil, A Dark Matter introduces a cast of unforgettable characters, marking the start of an addictive new series.

‘I was addicted from the first page; gripping, gritty and darkly funny as hell.’ Erin Kelly

‘Emotionally complex, richly layered and darkly funny. An addictive blend of Case histories and Six Feet Under.’ Chris Brookmyre

‘I’d say that A Dark Matter showcases a writer at the peak of his powers, except that with every book, Doug Johnstone just gets better.’ Val McDermid

A Dark Matter was published by Orenda Books in January 2020


BREAKERS proof final cover


A toxic family … a fight for survival…

Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.

On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.

With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.

A pulsatingly tense psychological thriller, Breakers is also a breathtakingly brutal, beautiful and deeply moving story of a good kid in the wrong family, from one of Scotland’s finest crime writers.

‘A cracking story, great characters … it’s also about something and really addresses the “whys” of crime’ Mark Billingham

This may be Doug Johnstone’s best book yet. An unsparing yet sympathetic depiction of Edinburgh’s ignored underclass, with terrific characterisation. Tense, pacey, filmic’ Ian Rankin

Breakers again shows that Doug Johnstone is a noir heavyweight and a master of gritty realism. This may be his finest novel yet’ Willy Vlautin

Breakers was published by Orenda Books in May 2019, and was shorlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Novel.


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Brilliantly constructed speculative crime fiction, a classic whodunit and a dark psychological suspense, Doug Johnstone returns with his most explosive and original thriller yet.

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, where a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery.

On a clandestine trip to new volcanic island The Inch, to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery, a secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done.

Fault Lines was published by Orenda Books in ebook on 28th Feb 2018 and in paperback on May 22nd.



Crash Land was published by Faber and Faber on 3rd November 2016.

‘An unnerving tale of what happens to ordinary lives when the wheels come off.’ VAL MCDERMID

‘A haunting, unforgettable page-turner that ticks every excellence box in crime writing.’ ALANNA KNIGHT

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.

Buy it here.
Buy the Kindle ebook here.
Read loads of reviews and features on the book on the press page.


the jump front cover

The Jump was published by Faber and Faber on 6th August 2015.

You can do anything if you have nothing left to lose.

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. The Jump is a hugely moving contemporary thriller, and a stunning portrait of an unlikely heroine.

Buy it here.
Buy the Kindle ebook here.
Read loads of reviews and features on the book on the press page.


the dead beat front cover

The Dead Beat was published by Faber and Faber on 1st May 2014.

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.

Buy it here.
Buy the Kindle ebook here.

Read dozens of reviews of the novel and features on Doug over on the press page.



Gone Again was published by Faber and Faber on 7th March 2013.

‘It’s just to say that no-one has come to pick Nathan up from school, and we were wondering if there was a problem of some kind?’

As Mark Douglas photographs a pod of whales stranded in the waters off Edinburgh’s Portobello Beach, he is called by his son’s school: his wife, Lauren, hasn’t turned up to collect their son. Calm at first, Mark collects Nathan and takes him home but as the hours slowly crawl by he increasingly starts to worry.

With brilliantly controlled reveals, we learn some of the painful secrets of the couple’s shared past, not least that it isn’t the first time Lauren has disappeared. And as Mark struggles to care for his son and shield him from the truth of what’s going on, the police seem dangerously short of leads. That is, until a shocking discovery…

Buy it here.
Buy the Kindle ebook here.

Read dozens of reviews of the novel and features on Doug over on the press page.


H&R paperback cover FINAL

Hit & Run was published by Faber and Faber on 15th March 2012.

You hit someone. You run. But what if you have to go back?

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.

Buy it here.

Read the reviews and features on Hit & Run as they come in, over at the press page.


Smokeheads was published by Faber and Faber on 3rd March 2011. You can buy it here.

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.

A wild trip to the Scottish Highlands, Doug’s debut on the Faber crime list is a classic violent thriller, doused with black humour.

‘Lulls the reader with the warm glow of a good dram on a winter’s night, then ambushes him with all the bitter nastiness of a brutal whisky hangover’ Christopher Brookmyre

Read dozens of reviews of the novel and features on Doug over on the press page.


The Ossians

The Ossians was published in March 2008 by Penguin. It is now out of print, but you can buy the Faber ebook here.

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.

‘The Ossians is a drug-fuelled, counterclockwise state-of-the-nation rock n roll tour that captures where we’re at better than any modern novel I’ve read.’ Irvine Welsh

‘A powerful and moving commentary on the country and its defining myths’ Ian Rankin

‘A rock odyssey so exhilaratingly authentic, you can hear the chords and smell the vomit’ Christopher Brookmyre

‘A gripping, compelling road trip around modern Scotland in the company of a drug-ravaged, untamed visionary’ Niall Griffiths

‘ This is This is Spinal Tap for Scotland’s lost generation. Johnstone has taken a small story of a small band lost in a small country and created an epic’ Ewan Morrison

‘Johnstone is good at describing the excitement, boredom, sniping and bonhomie of a touring band at the transit-van end of the career arc’ The Times

‘The authentic ring of a man who’s been there’ Guardian

‘Packed with seedy, sticky bars, sullen punters and morose reflections in deteriorating weather, there is an atmospheric beauty to The Ossians’ Independent on Sunday

‘A blast’ Scotland on Sunday



Tombstoning was published in August 2006 by Penguin. It is now out of print, but you can buy the Faber ebook version here.

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.

‘A vibrant and engaging debut, by turns humorous, irreverent and poignant’ Bill Duncan

‘A seductive and thrilling evocation of what lurks beneath the surface of small-town Scotland – or indeed small-town anywhere.’ Christopher Brookmyre

‘Excellently written, intriguing storyline, and different from anything else around. A very impressive debut.’ Allan Guthrie

‘Detailed and atmospheric description… funny and sparky dialogue’ Sunday Herald

‘A splendidly old-fashioned thriller, often very funny, with a touching and believable romance thrown in.’ The Times

‘Pacey debut thriller… Johnstone skilfully coaxes the reader into identifying with these difficult-to-love characters and maintains the tension and drama. He also pulls off a trick many experienced authors can’t manage: convincing descriptions of sex.’ Metro

‘Tombstoning has a friendly, pacy tone, a touch of romance and a gripping action sequence in the final chapters.’ The Scotsman