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The Big Chill – Doug Johnstone – Blog tour read

Once again, I must thank Anne Cater for organising this blog tour. For The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone, the second book in the lives of the Skelf’s sagas. Published by Orenda Books 20th August 2020.

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 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.

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.

My Review – The Big Chill

The Skelf’s – Dorothy – Widow of Jim, Mother to Jenny. Jenny – ex-journalist, Mother to Hannah, ex-wife to Craig, whos now in prison for the murder of Hannah’s flatmate. Hannah – Uni student, girlfriend to Indy. Between them, they run Skelf’s Funeral Directors and as a sideline run a private eye business too. But both are busy and both are run by the family, a family of strong, resilient, headstrong women, who mainly don’t take no for an answer.

Now this may sound confusing, but you must bear with and part of the joy is the unraveling of the characters and then the story is an added bonus. The Skelf’s are an amazing tribe, not only do they contain compassion enough to serve the dead and their families but also they chase justice so that the truths are known, however hurtful. More importantly, they have morals and want to uphold traditions that many hold dear. But also embrace change and ideas from others, they are quite unique and I have warmed to them, how could you not.

This is the second book in the Skelf series, but there is enough background information to get a good gist of the previous book and so know why and what. Although you may think a book about a family of funeral directors would be serious, this is the total opposite, death may be a serious subject, but this is humorous and at times darkly so. Set in the city of Edinburgh Johnstone has set the scene perfectly, and it’s as picturesque as it is grubby all at the same time. As most cities are.

We find the Skelf’s in many different stages. Dorothy still grieving the death of Jim but wanting to move on in life. Jenny is trapped in Craig’s shadow, but Liam is helping her step out of it and Hannah feels guilt and rage at the capabilities of others to carry on around her. Her studies have suffered and her relationship with Indy is limping along because of it. She’s seeing a counselor, Rita, who is is trying to understand Hannah’s way of thinking but she adds an extra layer with her studies in quantum physics and parallel universe’s where everyone who’s died and she holds herself partly responsible is still alive.

I think I am making this out to be very complex, but it really isn’t. Its simple crime-solving and mystery resolving really, but The Seklf’s add flair and perhaps oddity and black humor. Who is ‘Jimmy X’? What’s going on with Abi? What secrets has Hugh Fowler got tucked away in his closet? And Craig, what does he want?

So Many questions that need answers and bit by bit, they all become crystal clear as to why they happened. I really enjoyed Doug Johnstone’s second installment with The Big Chill and await with excitement, the third book. As with all Orenda books that I have had the pleasure to read this is excellently plotted and thought through. And a delight to delve back into the Skelf family world again.

Please follow the rest of the Blog Tour and check out other bloggers reviews, we all see different things and you might find some new bloggers you haven’t encountered before, follow them, we are a fun bunch.

To pre-order The Big Chill

@doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks @annecater #TheBigChill

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