Running private investigator and funeral home businesses means trouble is never far away … The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone #blogtour #bookreview @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks @annecater

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.


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?


The Skelf family are back in Doug Johnstone’s latest novel, The Big Chill. Still reeling from the events which happened in the last book, Dorothy and her family are trying to adapt to a new normality; by keeping the funeral and private investigator business running. But things are about to come back and haunt them in a big way when Jenny’s (Dorothy’s daughter) former partner begins to make contact from prison. It seems he is determined to push the family over the edge. But how far exactly is he willing to go this time?

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.

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 20th June 2020 (kindle) 20th August 2020 (paperback)

Print length: 300 pages

The Big Chill is available to buy:

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones


The Big Chill BT Poster

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