Continuing a run of returning authors that I seem to be having at the moment, I have the honour today of joining the blog tour for Doug Johnstone’s latest book, The Big Chill, book two his The Skelfs series. Many thanks to Doug, and to Orenda books, for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.
Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver ’s shadowy life.
While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.
But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears, and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves immersed in an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?
Fast-paced, darkly funny, yet touching and tender, the Skelf family series is a welcome reboot to the classic PI novel, whilst also asking deeper questions about family, society and grief.
The Big Chill sees us join the three Skelf women in the aftermath of the events of A Dark Matter, as each finds their own way to come to terms with what happened. Once again, the book moves between chapters told be each of Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah as they battle their own demons whilst dealing with an ever growing case list for their private investigation business, and an ever growing body count for the funeral business.
The book gets off to a dramatic start as one of Dorothy’s funerals is interrupted by a police car chase, resulting in both their first case to investigate and new body to bury. Although each of the cases investigated this time round tugs at the heartstrings for different reasons, I found this case to be particularly moving, and really quite emotional as the truth began to be revealed.
Proving he is a master of suspense as well as emotion, Doug Johnstone juggles the delicate new cases with thrilling drama as past events come back to haunt Jenny and her family. Johnstone’s writing moves seamlessly between these two areas, and in doing so made sure that I was entirely immersed in all the elements of the book.
In the Skelfs, Johnstone has created a wonderfully rich family of entirely believable characters, and I think everyone will be able to relate to at least one of these women at some level. The supporting cast round out the picture perfectly. Bring on book three so I can find out what happens next!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.
Don’t forget to visit all the other amazing blogs taking part in this tour.