The Big Chill, Doug Johnstone: Book Review

An addictive crime fiction with a strong female-lead, The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone might be for you.

The plot:

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.

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, whilst asking the big existential questions.

There’s a lot of science to make the reader think, blended with crime fiction

I’ve cut down a bit of the synopsis, because it does provide spoilers for book 1, A Dark Matter, in the Skelf series; I read A Dark Matter prior to reading The Big Chill, and I’d highly recommend it.

This book is set 6 months on from the first book, so does provide extreme spoilers – it’s worth starting with the first for this, otherwise you miss the introduction of the characters, as well as why they are where they are now. The spoilers are within the first few pages and embedded throughout and it clearly states *everything* (in comparison to some books where they gloss over some facts).

Firstly, the concept for this story is great and weird; a funeral directors’ with a side of private investigation? Yeah, ok.

There’s a lot of science to make the reader think, blended with crime fiction which really shines through from the author’s knowledge. I went to an Orenda event earlier this year and met Johnstone, and his intelligent and witty personality really comes through in the book.

Chapters are split between the 3 main characters, the woman of the Skelf family, showing the 3 different generations. I enjoyed this, as they each worked on something different and showed their PI tactics. In terms of the characters themselves, I am here for Dorothy and Hannah, but I’m still holding a solid grudge over Jenny for something she said in the first book which has honestly made me hate her a lil (a lot). I’m not sure if this is intended, but I’ll probs hold it against her in book 3 too.

There’s a lot of conversation, so relatively fast-paced and Johnstone knows how to grab you with that killer opening line. It did have its slow moments, especially when the characters seemed to be running around in circles.

The first book had a good amount of twists, and The Big Chill also had its shocking moments. It’s advertised as ‘pitch-black humour’, and I consider myself having a pretty dark humour, but I didn’t laugh much.

I have a few of Johnstone’s other books, and whilst I’m not rushing to read them, I’ll definitely pick them up at some point, as well as the next book with The Skelfs. A 3-star book, and I would give A Dark Matter (book 1), 4-stars.

The Big Chill, Doug Johnstone, RRP £8.99 (paperback); Book Depository 

Pages: 309

Publisher: Orenda Books

Genre: Crime Fiction

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