Cover image for The bone yard
The bone yard
Johnston, Paul, 1957-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2000.

Physical Description:
297 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
First published : London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1998.
Format :


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New Year's Eve 2021. The one night of the year when the guards are less vigilant. The perfect time for murder.

Welcome to twenty-first-century Edinburgh: an oppressive, crime-free independent city state, run by the Council of City Guardians. New Labour has failed, and in the disastrous break-up of Britain, city states have formed fiefdoms, walling themselves off from other warring parts. In the "perfect" city republic of Edinburgh, electricity, food, and even sex are rationed. Television, private cars, and cigarettes are banned, and crime is a distant memory.

But when the mutilated body of a man is found, subversive, blues-haunted private investigator Quintilian Dalrymple and his side-kick Davie are put back on the case. They must uncover the significance of the killer's eerie calling card-a blues cassette planted inside the victims' bodies. What is the connection between these tapes and a small blue tablet that causes a massive increase in alertness and sexual potency? Why does the Medical Directorate try to cover up the murder of an old man? Quint knows the solution-and the killer's identity-lies somewhere in the Bone Yard, if he can ever figure out what the Bone Yard is...

Author Notes

Paul Johnston was born in Edinburgh, in 1957. He now divides his time between a small Greek island and the United Kingdom. The Bone Yard features characters from his first novel, Body Politic, which won the CWA John Creasey Award for best first crime novel.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This follow-up to Johnston's Body Politic [BKL Jl 99] is just as well plotted and just as fresh. Set in Edinburgh two decades from now, the novel is in many ways a classic dystopia story: Edinburgh is a city-state, rigidly controlled, its citizens having been stripped of most of their freedom. In this supposedly crime-free city, someone is committing particularly nasty murders, and it falls to renegade detective Quintillion Dalrymple to catch the killer. Unlike many writers, Johnston knows how to pass information on to his readers: we get a gradual picture of Edinburgh as characters casually mention various aspects, like a curfew, or the fact that people are permitted to listen only to state-approved music. Too many similar novels get clogged by ponderous narrative passages describing the dystopia, but there's nothing ponderous here. It's a smart novel and a clever mystery set against an unusual and fascinating backdrop. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his Creasy Award-winning debut novel, Body Politic, Johnston introduced a near-future EdinburghÄa city-state dystopia modeled on Plato's Republic. In this follow-up novel, Johnston's Edinburgh is almost perfectly realized, while his maverick sleuth, Quintilian Dalrymple, is as at home here as Marlowe in L.A. or Spenser in Boston.This heavily regimented society (its citizenry enjoys no TV, no literature except approved classics and no renegade music such as rock or blues) ironically relies on the decadent entertainment it provides the international tourist trade. By using Orwellian controls, the City Guardians have created an almost crime-free environment. For the first time in two years, on New Year's Eve 2021, a murderer strikes in Edinburgh, slashing the throat of Roddie Aitken, a young Supply Directorate delivery man. Aitken had sought Dalrymple's help a few days earlier because a hooded man with a knife chased him home late one night. It gets even more personal when Dalrymple assumes control of the investigation and has to report to the guardians, who need his expertise as much as they despise his attitude. And what is the mysterious "Bone Yard" the guardians are talking about? Johnston transforms Edinburgh into a nightmarish and malignant stage, on which his blues-loving, wisecracking hero walks the walk and talks the talk perfectly. Brilliantly offbeat metaphors and fascinating characters reinforce the promise implicit in the author's first novel. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Edinburgh in 2021 is about as appealing as warmed-over haggis. Again (as in Johnston's Body Politic, the British Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Memorial Prize winner in 1997), the citizens of the Platonic city-state are kept in their own enclaves but encouraged to enjoy the antics of busloads of foreign tourists decked out in kilts and woolens while attending the year-round arts festival. Into this updated 1984 world enters Quintilian "Quint" Dalrymple, a blues-loving, well-connected, but subversive former official turned private detective. He is confronted by a serial killer who preys on a personable delivery man and a former guardian (whose grisly murders are graphically described). Quint and his companion, Davie, seek answers in the mysterious Bone Yard, which might be anything from a new disco, to where the dead carcasses of victims of Mad Cow disease are heaped, to a burned-out nuclear facility. For larger public libraries.DBob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.