blog tour, Book reviews, Crime thriller, Family drama, humour

The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

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.

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MY REVIEW 

#2 in the Skelf series…..it can be read as a stand-alone as events from book #1 A Dark Matter are mentioned as background to this story.

Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah are still trying to come to terms with events in A Dark Matter, as they try to carry on their lives as funeral directors and private investigators.

Dorothy is attending a funeral when a car crashes into an open grave, narrowly missing her. 

Jenny visits her ex-husband, Craig in prison and ends up on a charge of assault.

Hannah is seeing a therapist, due to the murder of her friend (by her dad) and is struggling, shutting out her partner, Indy.

But, they are still working and they try to find more about the unidentified driver killed in the car crash, there’s a missing drummer and a suspicious death to investigate.

This is the tale of the lives of the three Skelf women, their chaotic, troubled and sometimes dangerous lives. It deals with death, grief and fear, but also with love, acceptance and the importance of family. All told with a clear love of Edinburgh and a marvellous dark humour,

Full of realistic and relatable characters with all their quirks, a few mysteries and a compelling plot make this an emotion packed thriller. I was hooked from the very start and loved every minute.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an eARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

Purchase link: https://amzn.to/30BtKst

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Doug Johnstone is the author of more than 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 a 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. 

Book reviews, Family drama, Thriller

A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

After an unexpected death, three generations of women take over the family funeral-home and PI businesses in the first book of a brilliant, page-turning and darkly funny new series. 

The Skelfs are a well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators. When patriarch Jim dies, it’s left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events.

Dorothy discovers mysterious payments to another women, suggesting that Jim wasn’t the husband she thought he was. Hannah’s best friend Mel has vanished from university, and the simple adultery case that Jenny takes on leads to something stranger and far darker than any of them could have imagined.

As the women struggle to come to terms with their grief, and the demands of the business threaten to overwhelm them, secrets from the past emerge, which change everything… It’s a compelling and tense thriller and a darkly funny, warm portrait of a family in turmoil.

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MY REVIEW 

Set in Edinburgh, this starts with a funeral pyre in the garden, just as Jim wanted it, melting feet aside!

It is the story of three women, Dorothy, Jim’s widow, Jenny, their daughter and Hannah, their granddaughter. All grieving, but carrying on with their family business, the Skelf funeral directors and private investigators.

When Hannah and her girlfriend, Indy’s flatmate goes missing she is determined to find out what has happened. Did she really know her friend? And what she finds will be devastating……

Meanwhile, Dorothy finds out her husband has kept secrets from her, namely a missing employee and regular monthly payments to an unknown account. So she and her friend, a police officer, try to find out more. Oh and an old man who thinks his carer is stealing from him..

And Jenny, is investigating a potential cheating husband for a client. 

Can they find the answers they want and need? 

I love this book, it’s full of secrets and a dark humour that makes you laugh and cringe at the same time…there’s love, family, empathy and a spot of gravedigging too. The Skelf’s are just so well developed characters, strong and very likeable, the 70 year old drummer, Dorothy,  shows age is no barrier and man, can she wield a shovel! 

A tense thriller, but also tells of a family dealing with grief…..heart pounding and heartwarming too. This is a read in one sitting novel and I’m already waiting for the next in this new series. Brilliant.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free ecopy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here: https://amzn.to/377uWpj

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. 

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 – 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.

Book reviews, Psychlogical thriller, Thriller

Breakers by Doug Johnstone – Book Review

 

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PUBLISHERS BLURB

Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Whilst trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addicted mother, he’s also coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings.


One night whilst on a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead. And that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because they soon discover the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.


With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in terrible danger, Tyler is running out of options, until he meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house. Could she be his salvation? Or will he end up dragging her down with him?

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MY REVIEW

Set in Edinburgh and Tyler lives in one of the most deprived areas of the city. He lives in a tower block, with his mother, Angela and young sister Bean….

His half-brother Barry lives in a flat on the same floor, with Tyler’s half-Sister, Kelly and two vicious bull terriers.

One night the three of them go on a burglary rampage, but during one the home owner comes home…..and things get out of hand. What they didn’t know at the time was the home belonged to Deke Holts of the largest crime family in Edinburgh.

Tyler is guilt ridden, he was only there as his brother made him…but he did call an ambulance for the stricken Monica…

For a little peace, he breaks into an empty house, and then meets Flick, who had done the same for a quite different reason. From so very different backgrounds, they become friends….

What follows is a heart rending tale of violence and fear…..with a little hope…Tyler, while he thinks nothing of stealing, it’s either under duress or for sheer necessity due to his circumstances…..A home with nothing, a heroin addicted mother and violent siblings…..and looking after his 7 year old sister. My heart broke for him.

Will Detective Inspector Pearce find the burglars, the attempted murderer?…..or will Deke find them first? Stunningly bleak and realistic this thriller will highlight the pressures young people are under when they have so little, just surviving shouldn’t be the norm. Marvellous creative writing by Doug Johnstone and I can thoroughly recommend this. A must read and one of my favourites this year.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook  in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

You can buy a copy here (click on the image)


AUTHOR BIO

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Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh.
He’s had nine novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous
novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime
Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and
bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies
and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin,
Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned
for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow.
He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative
writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors.
He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and
regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is drummer, vocalist and occasional guitarist for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.


PRAISE FOR DOUG’S PREVIOUS NOVEL FAULT LINES
‘A cracking and highly original thriller. Johnstone never fails to deliver’ Mark Billingham


‘As psychologically rich as it is harrowing. I’ve come to expect nothing less from Doug Johnstone, one of the genre’s premiere writers’ Megan Abbott


‘Doug Johnstone is Scotland’s truest exponent of noir. He writes novels that are punchy, fast-paced and sometimes gruellingly dark; unflinchingly challenging his readers by taking them to places that are emotionally and ideologically uncomfortable’ Chris Brookmyre
     
 ‘Thought-provoking and heartbreaking’ Scotsman


Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.
http://www.orendabooks.co.uk @OrendaBooks