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The Big Chill (The Skelfs Book 2) Kindle Edition
Running private-investigator and funeral-home businesses means trouble is never far away, and the Skelf women take on their most perplexing, chilling cases yet in Book Two of the darkly funny, devastatingly tense and addictive Skelfs series!
***Longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year***
‘Compelling, compassionate … just brilliant. This series gets better with every book. I cannot get enough of the Skelfs’ Mark Billingham
‘Brilliantly drawn and blackly comic’ Herald Scotland
‘Confirms the Skelfs as a classic crime clan. I can’t wait for the next one’ Erin Kelly
‘I LOVE the Skelfs … The only problem with The Big Chill is that you’ll devour it so fast you’ll feel as bereft as one of the Skelfs’ clients. Doug Johnstone has murdered sleep’ Val McDermid
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 that matriarch 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 sucked into an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?
Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series, which reboots the classic PI novel while asking the big existential questions, all with a big dose of pitch-black humour.
‘Exceptional … Johnstone seamlessly presents their stories with depth, elegance, and a delicate touch of wry humor as they get difficult jobs done with grace and kindness. This is a must for those seeking strong, authentic, intelligent female protagonists’ Publishers Weekly
‘Emotionally complex, richly layered and darkly funny. An addictive blend of Case Histories and Six Feet Under‘ Chris Brookmyre
‘Johnstone’s intuitive depiction of this trinity of resilient women is never less than flawless, in this tale punctuated by emotional depth and moments of dark humour...’ Raven Crime Reads
Praise for The Skelfs series
***Shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***
‘An engrossing and beautifully written tale that bears all the Doug Johnstone hallmarks in its warmth and darkly comic undertones’ Herald Scotland
‘Gripping and blackly humorous’ Observer
‘This dark but touching thriller makes for a thoroughly enjoyable slice of Edinburgh noir’ Mary Paulson-Ellis
‘This enjoyable mystery is also a touching and often funny portrayal of grief, as the three tough but tender main characters pick up the pieces and carry on: more, please’ Guardian
‘A tense ride strong, believable characters’ Kerry Hudson, Big Issue
‘They are all wonderful characters: flawed, funny, brave and well set up for a series. I wouldn’t call him cosy, but there’s warmth to Johnstone’s writing’ Sunday Times
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"'This enjoyable mystery is also a touching and often funny portrayal of grief, as the three tough but tender main characters pick up the pieces and carry on: more, please." --Guardian
"A fiendish mystery that is also deeply moving and laced with suitably dark humour. The start of a must-read series." --Mark Billingham, author, Lazybones
"A lovely, sad tale, beautifully told and full of understanding." --Times
"A new series from the criminally underrated Johnstone. His warm portrait of the tough, indomitable Skelf women is gripping and blackly humorous." --Observer
"A tense ride." --Big Issue
"Emotionally complex, richly layered and darkly funny. An addictive blend of Case Histories and Six Feet Under." --Chris Brookmyre, author, Places in the Darkness
"Flawed, funny, brave--and well set up for a series. I wouldn't call him cosy, but there's warmth to Johnstone's writing." --Sunday Times
"I was addicted from the first page; gripping, gritty and darkly funny as hell." --Erin Kelly, author, He Said/She Said
"Showcases a writer at the peak of his powers, except that with every book, Doug Johnstone just gets better." --Val McDermid, author, A Darker Domain --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B0885ZNW86
- Publisher : ORENDA BOOKS (20 June 2020)
- Language : English
- File size : 594 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 319 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 51,006 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Doug Johnstone knows how to open a book in a dramatic way. This time around, a police car chase crashes into a funeral organised by the Skelf’s and the young man, suspected of stealing the car, dies at the scene. You can only imagine what the bereaved family must be thinking as the horrific events unfold around them. The man behind the wheel of the car being chased is suspected of being homeless. The police are unable to identify him at the scene, and they show little interest in taking it further. Jenny is determined to find out who the man was. Even though he may mean little to the police, he is still someone’s son.
Meanwhile, Dorothy Skelf is concerned after one of her drummer students disappears. Her concerns are heightened when her family appear to show little interest in her disappearance. Dorothy throws herself into the case, and she certainly isn’t prepared for what she is about to discover.
You can see how Jenny’s husband’s betrayal has had an impact on the family over the past nine months. The theme of grief is explored very strongly here, and this comes through well in Doug’s characters as they try to come to terms with what has happened to their family. You can see this in Jenny and Hannah. Jenny is filled with torment. The past few months have taken its toll on Hannah as well. She is struggling to connect with her girlfriend and is filled with hatred and anger. You can see that she seeks revenge on her father for what he has done. The family are barely holding it together, and as the novel progresses, it’s hard to see how the future can be bright for them again.
Although this book reads well as a standalone, I would recommend reading the first book in the series, A Dark Matter. This will give you a better understanding of how the events that take place in the first book have had such a big impact on the Skelfs.
What I liked about this book as well was Doug Johnstone’s references to quantum physics which are peppered throughout the book. Often Hannah and her friends are debating the order and structure of the universe. This is a subject I find fascinating myself, and I could quite happily spend ages chatting to someone about it.
I would describe Doug Johnstone’s writing as more literary in style. His writing is very immersive, and I became utterly wrapped up in the lives of his characters. The Big Chill is another stunning book in this series, and I can’t wait to see where he takes The Skelf family next. And I’m hoping that there are more books in this series to come.
This time around there are three cases on the go, none of them exactly official. For Jenny it is the search for the family of a young man who dies after dropping in unexpectedly on a funeral that Dorothy is responsible for. And by dropping in I do really mean literally. Let's just say that his parking skills leave a lot to be desired. Dorothy meanwhile is trying to track down one of her teenage drumming students who fails to show up for her lesson and whose own mother seems reluctant to engage in the search for reasons that are slowly revealed. And Hannah, struggling with her own demons, is now faced with trying to find out what would lead to the death of a University Professor.
In a story full of secrets and deception, Doug Johnstone finds a pace of story telling that is compelling and yet matches the feeling of melancholy that is infecting this family. None of the women are operating at full throttle this time around. Even Hannah's former enthusiasm for investigation is tempered, her love of science affected by the constant feeling that the uncertainty of life is at complete odds with her once clearly defined understanding of the universe. There is a sense of fear and regret that seems to subdue the characters a little and, given what happened in book one, that is full understandable. The author has captured the mood perfectly and rather than turning me off, it actually drew me in, waiting for the three of them to find the resolve that I know they possessed to allow them to solve their respective cases.
This is a book full of reflection, not only of the women's lives, but also of the key theme that runs throughout the narrative - that of family and acceptance. The way in which those who are meant to love you unconditionally can either make or break your future. A look at how far some families are willing to go to ensure the happiness of one another, and the devastating impact on lives where understanding and acceptance is not forthcoming for others. From missing fathers and secret relationships, to a reflection of the growing population of homeless people on the streets of Edinburgh, all themes are handled in a thoughtful and perceptive way that will challenge you and make you think long and hard about your own prejudices and actions.
What I have loved about this series is that Doug Johnstone has created such a strong and diverse cast of women to lead us through the stories, with the male characters really only playing a supportive, or in some cases antagonistic, role. Dorothy is a brilliant matriarchal figure, although somewhat tired and jaded in this book, struggling to find the pleasure in the everyday, reminiscing over times when life was simple, but happy. Jenny is full of insecurities and badly damaged by her past, certain that she is destined to know only sorrow. She's stronger than she understands, but she is written perfectly, resulting in a mix of empathy and frustration when I read passages from her point of view. It is Hannah's passages that are the hardest to read, seeing the once vibrant young woman reduced to a ball of anger, hurt and almost resignation. Understandable, and yet sad to watch, especially as it starts to have an impact on her once solid relationship with Indy. Archie and Thomas are back. Archie, quiet in nature, is struggling with his own grief, providing some of the books quiet and more emotional moments. And the chemistry between Thomas and Dorothy is ever present, as are the frequent trips to Soderberg, increasing my need for pastry dishes tenfold.
In the end, everything we read can be linked back to the concept of family, even the story arc involving the Skelfs themselves which carries over from book one in rather dramatic and tense fashion. For that reason, I would recommend that if you haven't already done so I would read A Dark Matter first. You will get the essence of the way in which the women's lives have changed as a result of what happens, but there are elements of this book that are better served by knowing the full story. There is an underlying threat that carries throughout, right to the rather intense showdown at the end of the book. This is a conflict that is far from resolved, the promise of more to come tantalising for me as a reader. How it will impact our three heroic women, Jenny and Hannah especially, remains to be seen.
If you like to read a series that is a blend of the unusual, a combination of science, emotion and mystery, then this is the series for you. This book is a heady mix of emotion, reflection and tension, full of brilliant characters and compelling storylines that really get to the heart of society and family life. With added science - brought to you in a far more interesting way than your average GSCO Physics teacher of course.
The Skelf ladies are a formidable bunch and i enjoyed getting closer to them in The Big Chill. Johnstone has created characters here with whom I could really empathise, and as they each narrate their own chapters, the reader gets to see the feelings they might not express in front of others. The reader also meets a number of characters through the Skelf businesses, and I loved how each of these had their own back story, which meant I could connect with them more easily and understand their place within the overall plot.
The Big Chill is set in Edinburgh, and the sense of place within the novel is brilliant. I'm not familiar with the area, but Johnstone's descriptions meant I could walk the streets and picture perfectly what was happening.
Towards the end of the novel, there are some really chilling revelations. The plot becomes explosive and there are several tense moments that I was not expecting!
I look forward to seeing where Johnstone takes the Skelf family next!
After the excellent first book, I was really looking forward to this one!
I still love the really unique mix of Private Investigators and Funeral Directors and the interesting stories that come from both sides.
While still dealing with the aftermath of the events in the first book, Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah have a lot to deal with, both personally and with their businesses. Each with their own personal missions, yet still pulling together when needed, it was nice to see their vulnerable sides too despite them being very strong women in general.
I wished for a long series after finishing the last book and am really pleased to know that there is a third book on the way!
Cliffhangers are fine in episodes of a tv series but not in a book; I feel cheated when I have to wait for the publication of the next book.
That said, I nevertheless like this book a lot. The Skelfs books have a pleasing originality, great pacing and explore some interesting themes re. death, family, growing old, relationships, grief and anger.