Dorothy Skelf, Janny Skelf & Hannah Skelf (The Skelfs)

Created by Doug Johnstone

They are women–hear them roar.

Tere have been some strange families in the Shamus Game over the years, from the duplicitous, fractious Spellmans of San Francisco and the loud, unruly British-Italian Lunghis to the enternally bickering father-son combo of the Doyles of Newfoundland, but THE SKELFS of Edinburgh, Scotland are in a class by themselves.

When old Jim Skelf, the family patriarch, passes away, it’s up to the women of the family, his 70-year old widow DOROTHY SKELF, their daughter JENNY and twenty-ish granddaughter HANNAH, part-time university student, to keep the home fires burning and the family businesses–a long-established funeral-home business and a detective agency–afloat in this darkly humorous and slyly subversive series where death is the business–and often a punchline.

Dorothy, a drum-pounding eccentric with a weak spot for strays, is the one in charge now, but woe to anyone who underestimates her.

Her daughter, Jenny,  is the sensible one, a middle-aged former journalist and single parent, whom Dorothy brought back into the fold (and into the family home, a big, sprawling Victorian that also houses the funeral parlour, the embalming area and the detective agency) following her recent divorce.

And just to shake things up a bit, her daughter Hannah, a lesbian with a girlfriend, Indy, who has “brown skin and blue bob,” is off at the University, but drops in regularly to pitch in.

The books skitter from viewpoint to viewpoint between the three, and it’s a hoot seeing the play-by-play of misconceptions, misunderstandings and very different world views as they crash and tumble towards some sort of conclusion.

Grab a shovel and dig in.


  • “‘I was addicted from the first page; gripping, gritty and darkly funny as hell.”
    — Erin Kelly
  • “Compelling, compassionate … just brilliant. This series gets better with every book. I cannot get enough of the Skelfs”
    — Mark Billingham
  • “Emotionally complex, richly layered and darkly funny. An addictive blend of Case Histories and Six Feet Under”
    — Chris Brookmyre



  • It’s a Family Affair
    Family-Owned Detective Agencies
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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