I was totally buzzing to receive a review copy of Douglas Skelton’s “The Blood is Still” and just check out that cover! Isn’t it lush!
Before I share my thoughts here’s what the official blurb says:
When the body of a man in eighteenth-century Highland dress is discovered on the site of the Battle of Culloden, journalist Rebecca Connolly takes up the story for the Chronicle.
Meanwhile, a film being made about the ’45 Rebellion has enraged the right-wing group Spirit of the Gael which is connected to a shadowy group called Black Dawn linked to death threats and fake anthrax deliveries to Downing Street and Holyrood. When a second body – this time in the Redcoat uniform of the government army – is found in Inverness, Rebecca finds herself drawn ever deeper into the mystery. Are the murders connected to politics, a local gang war or something else entirely?
Anyone who knows me, will know that I am a massive fan of Douglas Skelton’s work and I’m always banging on about how he deserves to be mega successful. Well I’ve just finished The Blood Is Still and I can most definitely say that he has knocked it out the water with this one: it reminded me so much of the earlier Davie McCall series, full of grit, passion and the authors trademark black humour peppered throughout. I am kind of gobsmacked and a little bit lost for words, does “go fu@@ing buy it” cut it as a review these days!
The second in the Rebecca Connolly thriller, there have been a lot of Douglas Skelton fans waiting patiently for this one, following last year’s smash hit, Thunder Bay. A taut and emotive opening on the site of The Battle of Culloden but in the present day, is just a hint of the promise of what’s to come.
Rebecca and her colleague, freelance photographer, Chaz become embroiled in the mystery of the body of the man found dead at Culloden. But woven into the storyline, their pasts are never far from their mind and it makes for a haunting read. The two plots weave together seamlessly throughout the book.
Rebecca Connelly local journalist for the Highland Chronicle (the newspaper doesn’t exist) in Inchferry (the location is entirely made up too) is introduced in this novel covering a demonstration against convicted sex offenders being moved into the area, outside Highland Council offices by Mo Burke, head of the infamous Burke family. Her demonstration is hijacked by Finbar Dagleish, who heads up the extreme right wing movement. It is testament to Douglas Skelton’s skills that he is able to create this fictional world and make it one we all believe in.
Douglas Skelton’s books are not only bloody good reads, they are works of fictional art, and he has the most amazing talent for conjuring up pictures in glorious technicolour along with the sounds and the scents from the scene. It is impossible to pick up one of his books and not he transported inside of the pages.
Highly topical and at times frighteningly so, the rise of an extreme right movement in Scotland led by the vile Finbar Dagleish was terrifying to contemplate. Through his characters, Rebecca and freelance press photographer, Chaz also pokes a little stick at the current state of affairs in the press. Throughout the book the author challenges the reader’s misconceptions and assumptions; monsters are among us, they don’t always look like monsters and sometimes they aren’t always evil all the way through, they do good things, otherwise we would all know they were monsters, right?
The chapters narrated from a small child’s point of view tore at my heart. This is a book that you will want to savour, a book that will bury its way under your skin and a book that will make you read well past your bedtime.
In Rebecca, Douglas Skelton has created a fresh and vibrant character who comes to life, she is focused and determined and a strong young woman without being a caricature of the female protagonist we often see in fiction. She’s not perfect, she has her flaws and her worries but they are totally relatable to others and as such it makes her such an easy character to engage with.
Another couple of characters who stood out for me were DCI Valerie Roach and Rachel’s old boss, Elspeth, again two strong but not caricature, women who reach out the pages
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it, Douglas Skelton is one of Scotland’s top writers, his books should be winning awards all over the place. His writing is evocative, it’s intelligent, it’s strong and it’s bold, in every book he has written he has managed to create a world into which I step and believe is real, characters I can reach out and touch and he does it all so damn beautifully but doesn’t overegg it to the point you are drowning in purple prose.
Those who are familiar with Douglas’ work will perhaps recognise a passing nod to a couple of folk in this book, see how eagle eyed you all are. Me, I came over all emotional when I did!
The Blood Still is outstanding, If you read Thunder Bay and enjoyed it then this one is going to blow your socks off!
DO NOT MISS THIS!
The Blood is Still is available to purchase from
Douglas Skelton has published 12 non fiction books and eight crime thrillers. He has been a bank clerk, tax officer, shelf stacker, meat porter, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), reporter, investigator and editor.
His first thriller BLOOD CITY was published in 2013.
The gritty thriller was the first in a quartet set on the tough streets of Glasgow from 1980 onwards. It was followed by CROW BAIT, DEVIL’S KNOCK and finally OPEN WOUNDS, which was longlisted for the first McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year in 2016.
His two Dominic Queste thrillers, THE DEAD DON’T BOOGIE and TAG – YOU’RE DEAD lightened the tone but didn’t skimp on thrills.
He followed this with his New York-set chase thriller THE JANUS RUN in 2018.
THUNDER BAY, a dark and atmospheric tale of secrets, lies and murder on a Scottish island, was published to great acclaim by Polygon in 2019. It has been longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for 2019. The second in the series THE BLOOD IS STILL, will hit stands in March 2020.
Douglas is often recruited by documentary makers to contribute to true crime shows on TV and radio and is a regular on the crime writing festival circuit.
He also takes part in comedy shows with other crime writers. To date he has written three Carry on Sleuthing plays in which he also appears along with Caro Ramsay, Michael J. Malone, Theresa Talbot, Pat Young and Lucy Cameron, with occasional guests Alex Gray, Lin Anderson and Neil Broadfoot.
He is also one quarter of Four Blokes in search of a Plot, along with Gordon Brown, Mark Leggatt and Neil Broadfoot. This is a fun show in which they invited the audience to give them a murder weapon and a protagonist. They then take it in turns to create a crime story (usually developing into something wild and wacky) while also answering audience queries about the craft.
His one man event, You the Jury, invites audiences to deliver verdicts on real life but heavily disguised cases from around the world. In 2019 the format was extended into a court drama, thanks to the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland, within Stirling Sheriff Court played to three sell-out houses during the Bloody Scotland festival. there are plans to take the production further in 2020.
He is also, with bestselling author Denzil Meyrick, a regular on the SBOOKS podcast.
Author Web Page: