Saturday 10 October 2020

The Big Chill (The Skelfs Book 2) - Doug Johnstone


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 new Skelfs 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.

What did I think?

Since meeting the wonderfully quirky Skelf family in A Dark Matter, I have been looking forward to The Big Chill, the second book in the series.  As with all series, it's always best to read them in order, however, Doug Johnstone provides enough of a recap in The Big Chill to ensure that anyone who hasn't read A Dark Matter will not feel at a disadvantage.

Doug Johnstone has such an amazing sense of humour that you never know what's going to happen in his books.  The Big Chill has such an outstanding first chapter; it's so blackly comic that I struggled to contain my laughter at what certainly wouldn't have been a funny situation if it had happened in real life but is written in such a way that it wouldn't have looked out of place in a comedy sketch.  That's the beauty of Doug Johnstone's writing; if you have a good sense of humour you can pick up a lot of the witty little gems he has sprinkled through his prose.

The Skelf women (mother Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah) are such strong female characters that they effortlessly carry the hugely entertaining storyline along with them.  The Skelfs run a funeral home and a private investigation business which keeps them busy and when a homeless man turns up on the slab, the PI side of the business comes in useful as Dorothy tries to find out who the man is.  I absolutely loved this part of the story and felt like I was travelling the streets of Edinburgh with Dorothy as she attempted to identify the man she had named Jimmy X.

What I love about The Big Chill is that there are so many little strands of storylines running through the book that I could have knitted a multi-coloured scarf with them all.  It never gets confusing though as everything is perfectly timed and new minor characters are introduced at just the right time.  I think it's a female characteristic to personalise things and things certainly feel quite personal in The Big Chill as the Skelfs don't go looking for cases, cases definitely find them!

I absolutely loved The Big Chill; Doug Johnstone couldn't have written a better sequel to A Dark Matter.  Fast paced and deeply, darkly compelling my only disappointment was when I reached the end far too quickly.  I certainly can't recommend it highly enough, so pick up a copy for yourself; you won't be disappointed.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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