Blog Tours book reviews

The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone (The Skelfs 2)


Published: August 20th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Urban Fiction, Lesbian Literature

Welcome to my slightly late stop on the blog tour. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Orenda for the ARC.


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.


The Big Chill is the second book in the Skelfs Series, which follows the Skelf women – Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah – as they work together running the family funeral home and private investigation company. I haven’t read the first book but the author quickly catches you up on the traumatic and life-changing events that occurred.

The story jumps straight into the action with a car chase interrupting a funeral that leaves the unidentified driver dead. The family matriarch, Dorothy, can’t let it go and is determined to find out who he was and lay him to rest. But this isn’t their only investigation, with others running simultaneously, as well as the funeral business always keeping them busy.

This was a complex and layered novel, with lots of drama, tension and things bubbling beneath the surface. I loved the fascinating mix of three generations working together in dual roles that is an unusual pairing. It’s a brilliant basis for a series, so different from anything else I’ve read.

The characters are well-written, compelling and full of depth. They are each trying to come to terms with the distressing and painful events of book one, and are still haunted and trying to make sense of it all. In the three women, the author shows how trauma and PTSD can affect people in different ways in a very real and relatable way that hit home with me a number of times. The background characters were also fully drawn with interesting storylines and back stories of their own. I’m very eager to read more about Archie and his unusual condition.

If you’re looking for something different that will hold your attention and make you come back for more, this is the book for you. I’ll definitely be reading book one and look forward to seeing what’s next for the Skelf women.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

Doug Johnstone Author Pic


Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018), which was longlisted for the McIlcanney 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, Irivine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts and 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.

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The Big Chill BT Poster

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