Skeleton Blues by Paul Johnston

skeleton-bluesSkeleton Blues by Paul Johnston
Series: Quint Dalrymple #7
Genre: Near-future dystopian thriller, science fiction, mystery
Setting: Edinburgh, Scotland–2034
Published by Severn House Publishers, 2016
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: Apr 1)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
256 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Ex-cop Quint Dalrymple discovers there is something very rotten in the independent city-state of Edinburgh in this near-future dystopian thriller.”

Edinburgh, spring 2034. The weather s balmy, there s a referendum on whether to join a reconstituted Scotland coming up and a tourist is found strangled. As usual, maverick detective Quint Dalrymple is called in to do the Council of City Guardians dirty work.

For the first time in his career, Quint is stumped by the complexity of the case. An explosion at the City Zoo is followed by the discovery of another body and the prime suspect is nowhere to be found. Can Quint and his sidekick, Guard commander Davie, put a stop to the killings before the city erupts into open violence? Are the leaders of other Scottish states planning to take over Edinburgh, or is the source of unrest much closer to home? Quint must race to pull the threads together before he becomes one of the numerous skeletons on display

Initial impressions

  • An interesting dystopian mystery set in Edinburgh. Quint is an irreverent character who tries not to care.

The story

  • Qunt Dalrymple is called in to assist the police when a tourist is found murdered. Tourists are big business in Edinburgh.
  • The tourist is found in the apartment of a prostitute working for the Prostitution Services Department. She is the main suspect, but appearances aren’t what they seem in this book.
  • He keeps following leads and it is kind of like peeling an onion–more and more rings of onion are found.


  • The future is gritty and grim. Scotland seems to have broken into city-states and Edinburgh is about to vote on whether it should join a reconstructed Scotland.
  • Edinburgh is supposed to be a utopia and even though some of the restrictions on people’s lives have lifted it is still a joyless society. And though everyone is supposed to be equal there’s a hierarchy and corruption.
  • Tourism is the main industry in Edinburgh, but tourists and most citizens are kept apart so the tourists don’t realize how bad things really are in Edinburgh.
  • There is a lot of politics in the book. Quint reports directly to the Council of City Guardians who run the city.
  • Quint is a sarcastic, complex and cynical character. He’s a former policeman who still works for the police.
  • Hector Dalrymple, Quint’s father–a former Guardian–is a Roman scholar and named him Quintilian. In this book his father is dying, but still manages to play an important part in the story. His dying is difficult for Quint to accept.
  • Guard Commander Davie works with Quint. I don’t know if Davie has been a character in other books, but I suspect he has. They make a good team and their sarcastic and cynical comments are very funny at times.
  • Even though this book is the seventh book about Quint the book read quite well as a stand-alone. The first books are set in the 2020’s so some time has passed since then. I want to go back and read some of the books before this, because the author has created an interesting world.


  • I think this works okay as a stand-alone book, but it might be more understandable if I had read the ones before it. I felt like I understood most things, but maybe not!

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • When I began this book I didn’t realize this was the seventh book written in this world. The first book was written in 1997. It would be interesting to read some of the earlier books.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Paul Johnston was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1957. His father Ronald was a successful thriller writer. Paul attended state primary school in Berwickshire and private schools in Edinburgh. He subsequently studied ancient and modern Greek at the University of Oxford, then added an M.Phil in comparative literature to his M.A.. After leaving Oxford in 1982, Paul worked for shipping companies in London and Belgium. He moved to Greece in 1987, working on a newspaper, in shipping and then teaching English. He started writing seriously in 1989 when he went to live on the small Aegean island of Antiparos. Paul returned to Edinburgh to do another master’s degree in 1995 and then started studying for a doctorate. He still divides his time between Scotland and Greece – having left Athens, he and his family now live in the beautiful seaside town of Nafplio in the Peloponnese.

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