The Dead Don’t Boogie

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Dead Don't Boogie, Douglas Skelton, tartan noir, crime fictionWritten by Douglas Skelton — There must be something in the air up there in Bonny Scotland – it has more cracking crime writers than the calories in a deep-fried Mars Bar. This author even made the shortlist for the McIlvanney Prize for best Crime Book of the Year with Open Wounds, the last part of his Davie McCall series..

My first taste of Douglas Skelton finds him less Tartan Noir, more Tartan Ha-Ha, thanks to the comedic antics of his ‘hero’ Dominic Queste. Dominic’s life has been a litany of failures, but he is good at finding people and as this story begins he is looking at signing off another success. Runaway Jenny Deavers is a runaway no longer! But what should be the end of the tale is just a beginning, and Dominic soon finds himself embroiled in a whole heap of Trouble with a capital T.

Seems Dominic wasn’t the only one looking for the errant young woman, and when the aunt who initiated the search for Jenny is murdered, he realises the seemingly simple assignment has become immeasurably more complicated. Luckily, he has some good buddies and top of the chart are the Sutherland Brothers. (Sadly, these ones are not the musical duo who had a hit with Lying in the Arms of Mary.)

Geordies Hamish and Duncan are reformed hard men who love to dabble in the kitchen. But don’t think that means they’ve turned soft. This pair may have found a conscience but they haven’t lost any of their strong arm skills. Thanks to Dominic, they’re likely to be using them aplenty before this caper is over.

Another friend soon to be in the firing line is Father Verne, who runs the Mary Ellis Memorial Refuge and is happy to take Jenny as his latest guest. But where Jenny goes, mayhem seems to follow and the priest may need more than prayers to keep himself safe…

The Dead Don’t Boogie is a heady mixture of hardboiled detective novel and super-sharp black humour and it’s a winning combination that will keep you engaged throughout. From the mean streets of Glasgow to the dubious seaside pleasures of Saltcoats, the action comes fast and furious, with gangsters, hitmen and even world politics finding a place in the plot. Yes, there are times when things get a little far-fetched, but there’s more than enough gritty realism to balance the books.

This is the first in a series featuring Dominic Queste and he is quite a creation. A former journalist and reformed drug addict, he is a dab hand at the one-liner and has an even greater talent for finding bother. Nothing seems to go smoothly for this guy!

Apart from the spot-on characterisation, this book also boasts a plot that keeps us wrong-footed right to the final page. At the end there is even a taster from the second Queste book, Tag – You’re Dead.

Crime fiction with a touch of humour is fast becoming a genre all its own (though the tartan haha monicker may need a little work). Top proponents have been Chris EwanPaul D Brazill and Keith Nixon and Douglas Skelton displays that same talent for balancing the macabre with the downright laugh-out-loud. This book really is a pleasure to read.

Contraband is the crime, mystery and thriller imprint of the award-winning Saraband publishing house and it boasts an impressive roster of talented writers. Skelton and Queste are going to fit right in.


CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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