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.

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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?

MY THOUGHTS

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

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WWW Wednesday – 15/07/2020

It’s been a while since I’ve taken part in a WWW Wednesday. WWW Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

 

The three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What have you finished reading?
What will you read next?

 

What am I currently reading

       Written in Blood by [Chris Carter]

 

What have you finished reading?

          

 

What will you read next?

Final Cut by [S J Watson]        The Silence: ‘A riveting mystery’ (Erin Kelly) by [Susan Allott]

A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone #bookreview blog tour @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks @annecater

Happy New Year!

Welcome to my first post of 2020 and I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

A Dark Matter (The Skelfs) by [Johnstone, Doug]

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Meet the Skelfs: well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators…

When patriarch Jim dies, it’s left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events.

Dorothy discovers mysterious payments to another woman, suggesting that Jim wasn’t the husband she thought he was. Hannah’s best friend Mel has vanished from university, and the simple adultery case that Jenny takes on leads to something stranger and far darker than any of them could have imagined.

As the women struggle to come to terms with their grief, and the demands of the business threaten to overwhelm them, secrets from the past emerge, which change everything…

A compelling, tense and shocking thriller and a darkly funny and warm portrait of a family in turmoil, A Dark Matter introduces a cast of unforgettable characters, marking the start of an addictive new series.

MY THOUGHTS

Doug Johnstone is fast becoming one of my favourite writers. His previous book, Breakers, was one of my top reads of 2019 and he has pulled it off again with A Dark Matter.

I think this book has one of the most original openings I’ve read in a long while. I did have to go over the first two sentences a couple of times as it dawned on me what was happening. Doug Johnstone pulls you into his story with a somewhat disturbing opening as a corpse is being fried. This opening scene grabbed my attention, and I wanted to know what the hell was going on here. But the opening scene isn’t quite as sinister as you might think; there are a lot more sinister scenes to come.

In Doug’s last book, I loved the raw, authentic voice he gave to his characters. In this book, we meet a family who own a funeral home, the Skelfs, which also operates as a private detective agency. I really liked this idea. It did give the book a Miss Marple and an Inspector Poirot kind of feeling.

Hannah, who is the granddaughter of Dorothy, who now solely owns the business after the death of her husband, Jim, is distraught when her friend Mel disappears. She begins investigating Mel’s disappearance on her own and takes matters into her own hands when it appears that the police show little interest. Hannah is tough and is absolutely determined to find out what has happened to her Mel. But meanwhile, another mystery is taking up her mother’s time.  Hannah’s mother, Jenny, has found out that the business is still paying money to the wife of a former employee who also strangely disappeared. She can’t understand why the business is still paying this money and begins to suspect that her father, Jim, may have had a hand in his disappearance. Did he reach an agreement with his former employee’s wife to keep her silent on the matter?

I did think that A Dark Matter didn’t have the same, quite high level of tension as Breakers did, but I did become utterly immersed in the story. It is quite a different book, and it does stand out, it’s hard to place it into just one genre. Doug really captures Hannah’s anger as she searches for answers behind Mel’s disappearance, and also in Jenny’s despair, as she tries to work out what has been going on behind her back within the business. Doug Johnstone has a real talent for giving his characters strong, emotional depth which really brings them to life and makes them feel like real people.

You will be rooting for the characters to reach the answers that they are desperately craving. A Dark Matter is a totally original novel that will have you begging for the next chapter in the series. Fantastic writing!

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 23rd November 2019 (kindle) 23rd January 2020 (paperback)

Print length: 300 pages

If you would like to purchase A Dark Matter, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

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Top Ten Reads of 2019

It’s that time of the year again and we’re nearly into a new decade. It’s crazy isn’t it? New Year’s Eve 2009 only feels like yesterday to me.

Over the last twelve months, these ten reads have really stayed with me, long after I’ve finished reading them, which is why they are included here. This year, so far, I’ve read 131 books, and it has been really hard to pick my top ten.

So without any further ado, here are my top 10 reads of 2019.

10.

The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath.

The Guilty Party: Dive into a dark, gripping and shocking psychological thriller from bestselling author Mel McGrath by [McGrath, Mel]

This is the second book I’ve read by Mel McGrath and I felt it was a masterclass in plotting and suspense. I had no doubt at the time I read it, that it would be in my top ten reads this year. You can read my review by clicking here.

9.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019 and it didn’t disappoint. Alex North created such a chilling atmosphere in this book. You can read my review by clicking here.

8.

A Window Breaks by C.M. Ewan

A Window Breaks: A family is pushed to breaking point in this addictive, pulse-racing, emotionally-charged thriller by [Ewan, C. M.]

This was a fast and furious read that literally had me turning the pages well into the night. You can read my review by clicking here.

7.

Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen

This was one of the most unique thriller’s I’ve read this year which is why it thoroughly deserves a place in my top ten. You can read my review by clicking here.

6.

Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear

Stone Cold Heart: the addictive new thriller from the author of Sweet Little Lies by [Frear, Caz]

I was eagerly anticipating the return of Caz Frear’s detective, Cat Kinsella. Caz’s writing is so addictive and I finished it in just a couple of days. Read my review by clicking here.

5.

Violet by SJI Holliday

Violet by [Holliday, SJI]

This was another book I found to be really original. SJI Holliday takes us across Asia in her latest book and both the settings and the characters, to me, is what made this book stand out. You can read my review by clicking here.

4.

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

Nothing Important Happened Today by [Carver, Will]

There isn’t a writer out there, who I have come across, who writes quite like Will Carver. Whatever Will Carver publishes next, I know it’s always going to be straight at the top of my list. You can read my review by clicking here.

3.

The Neighbour proves that Fiona Cummins is a writer at the top of her game. This is her best book to date. You can read my full review by clicking here.

2.

Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

This was an absolutely terrific debut which takes us back to a dark time in Britain’s and the world’s history. You can read my full review by clicking here.

1.

Breakers by Doug Johnstone

Breakers by [Johnstone, Doug]

This is a read that will really pull at the heartstrings and it made me feel so tense as I was reading this. This book has remained my favourite read of the year. You can read my review by clicking here.

 

And that’s a wrap for another year.

I hope you have a great Christmas and a great 2020 filled with brilliant books!

June First Monday Crime @1stMondayCrime

First Monday Crime is all set to return to City University next week on Monday, 3rd June 2019. One of the guests who will be appearing on next month’s panel is Tim Weaver who is the author of ten novels featuring private investigator, David Raker, who tracks down missing people. His latest novel is, No One Home and it has a very intriguing and scary premise. If you’re also interested in checking out his previous books, I’ve listed them below as well.

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At Halloween, the residents of Black Gale gather for a dinner party. As the only nine people living there, they’ve become close friends as well as neighbours.

They eat, drink and laugh. They play games and take photographs. But those photographs will be the last record of any of them.

Because by the next morning, the whole village has vanished.

With no bodies, no evidence and no clues, the mystery of what happened at Black Gale remains unsolved two and a half years on. But then the families of the missing turn to investigator David Raker – and their obsession becomes his.

What secrets were the neighbours keeping from their families – and from each other?

Were they really everything they seemed to be?

And is Raker looking for nine missing people – or nine dead bodies?

        

                            

        

        

You Were Gone: I buried you. I mourned you. But now you're back The Sunday Times Bestseller by [Weaver, Tim]

And alongside Tim Weaver, we have three other brilliant crime writers appearing, Angela Clarke author of On My Life, Doug Johnstone author of Breakers and Peter Harrington author of A Single Source. The panel will be moderated by Jake Kerridge.

And that isn’t all. Yes, there will also be a special event, Summer Blind Book Date. This event will feature authors, Elodie Harper, Marnie Riches, Howard Linskey, Tom Wood, Steph Broadribb and Amer Anwar.

Tickets are absolutely FREE and you can reserve your space by clicking on the link below. The nearest tube stations to City University are Farringdon and Angel. Books will be available to buy on the night, and the authors will be signing copies.

Reserve your space here

Breakers by Doug Johnstone #bookreview blog tour @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks @annecater

Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for Doug Johnstone’s brilliant new novel, Breakers. With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Breakers by [Johnstone, Doug]

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A toxic family … a fight for survival…

Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.

On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.

With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.

A pulsatingly tense psychological thriller, Breakers is also a breathtakingly brutal, beautiful and deeply moving story of a good kid in the wrong family, from one of Scotland’s finest crime writers.

MY THOUGHTS

Oh. My. God. This book. Breakers was nothing like I expected it to be, I’ve read Doug Johnstone’s previous novel Faultlines, but I think this book takes his writing up to another level. There’s no mistake that this is a dark, dark book but it also pulls at the heartstrings. It has characters that will get under your skin and a tension fuelled plot that will keep you turning those pages.

This is a book about family. It asks the question, just how far are we prepared to go to protect the ones we love. Tyler Wallace hasn’t had the best start in life. He has never known who his father is, and his mother, Angela is a drug addict. The main person who Tyler cares about in his life is his younger sister, Bethany or Bean, as he calls her. He has two half siblings, Barry and Kelly and the three of them make their money by burgling posh houses in Edinburgh. But when one of their jobs goes badly wrong, it sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

There are so many things I want to talk about this book. One of the parts which I really liked was Tyler’s relationship with his sister. I could clearly see that he is desperate to give them a better chance in life and for Bean to have a better start than he did, and this shines through in his character, making him stand out next to Barry and Kelly. His brother, Barry, is a very different person. It seems that not even the threat from a very dangerous family will stop him in getting what he wants; I absolutely hated him, he is such a scary and unpredictable character. He made me even keener to see Tyler and Bean get out and make a fresh start.

Tyler’s friendship with Flick was another aspect of the novel I really liked. I couldn’t be sure where Doug Johnstone was heading with this after they first met. She is a girl from a different, more affluent part of the town and you would think that a relationship between them wouldn’t work, but here it really does.

I think the characters within the pages of this book will all stay with me long after finishing. Some parts of this book I did find hard to read, but this isn’t a criticism, far from it, it was because I connected so much with Tyler and Bean that I didn’t want anything bad to happen to them.

One of the points which Doug had me thinking about as I was reading, was what drives people to a life of crime? Their background, where they’re from or how they are brought up? If Tyler and his family had been brought up in a different area would things have worked out as badly for them as they have?

Breakers is a very good book, one that will draw you into the dark side of Edinburgh which Doug Johnstone describes so, so well making his writing very immersive. If you enjoy books that keep you on edge and transfixed to what is happening on the page, then I highly recommend that you give this book a go.

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 16th March 2019

Print length: 300 pages

If you would like to purchase Breakers, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

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breakers blog poster 2019