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 this darkly funny, devastatingly tense and addictive new series!
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.
Hi and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Big Chill! Massive thanks to Orenda Books for the proof copy and of course to Anne Cater for having me on the tour.
With The Big Chill we’re back in Edinburgh with the Skelf family. Honestly, after a chapter or two I felt like I’d never left. This is without a doubt my favourite part of reading a series, the feeling of being reunited with characters who feel like old friends, or in this case, like family.
All the introductions out of the way, we covered that ground in A Dark Matter, we jump right back into the story, picking up where the first instalment left off, with the Skelf women (mater familias Dorothy, her daughter Jenny and Jenny’s daughter Hannah) licking their wounds and trying to bounce back from past events. For those of you who haven’t read A Dark Matter (you’re in luck that this is a loving, non-judgmental blog or I’d let the GoT for-shame nun loose on you), I won’t give away any spoilers in case it’s on your TBR (which it should be, and preferably at the very top), but if you’re tons of books behind and would prefer to start with The Big Chill (
what is wrong with you?!), you could do so, as past events are referred to in a clear manner allowing the new reader to jump in without prior knowledge, and reminding the somewhat senile reader (me) of all the things “previously on the Skelfs” without it ever feeling like past facts are being rehashed.
I read The Big Chill after two novels that seemed to drag despite their limited number of pages and I really needed a win. I vividly remember Doug Johnstone’s Breakers snapping me out of a book slump last year, so naturally I turned to Doug again, and I’m so happy I did. Oncoming book slump averted! I flew through it. I said it when I reviewed A Dark Matter and I’ll say it again, there is rhythm and music in Doug’s words. The writing flows so naturally that it’s impossible not to fly through it. And that’s without even considering the story. There are so many threads to follow, funeral director’s business, PI cases, the private lives of the Skelfs. Hopping from one storyline to another and back, things never get even remotely muddled, overcrowded or overwhelming, Doug Johnstone is an excellent conductor of this orchestra, with impeccable timing and pitch perfect pace.
I positively adore these three tenacious, smart as a whip Skelf women, and I love their relationships. They are portrayed so astutely, with heaps of attention to detail yet never overly descriptive. They share some of the same traits, making it clear that they’re related, while they are clearly also children of their own generation. I particularly have a soft spot for Dorothy. Creating a seventy-year-old female lead is a bold move, but one I can only applaud. Her bones may creak a little more than they used to but she flat out refuses to lead a life of leisure like society might expect her to do. Instead, she lugs around corpses, solves misper cases and teaches drum classes. You wouldn’t believe it if you saw it with your own eyes, but somehow it’s entirely believable when Dorothy does it. And the same is true for every single character. They are all fleshed out, well-rounded, believable, Doug sure has a knack for making me care about the people inhabiting his books!
Seeing early reviews stating that The Big Chill is even better than A Dark Matter, I thought well that is highly unlikely, I couldn’t possibly love it more. Except I do and what a conundrum, I already gave A Dark Matter five stars, there’s nowhere to go! The Big Chill is definitely one to add to your (undoubtedly teetering) TBR. It is all kinds of brilliant, I loved the various storylines, the insight in the ins and outs of a funeral home, the sciency bits, the fact that thanks to the embedded humour it never weighs you down despite the darkish events, and especially the characters. Highly recommended.