A Year of Orenda – A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone

Today I pass the blog over to Mandie who has a review of A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone as part of our #YearOfOrenda. Mandie’s been enjoying playing Orenda catch up so much, she’s even taken on some extra titles this year, and after attending the launch for this book back in January, she couldn’t resist an extra read. I read the book back at the start of the year and if you want to know what I thought you can find my review here. Keep an eye out next week too as I’ll be sharing my thoughts on book two in the series, The Big Chill. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Owned copy

About the Book

Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral-home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, page-turning and darkly funny new series. 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.

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Mandie’s Thoughts

This is the first book in the Skelfs series, and it is certainly different from the previous books I have read by this author and was a bit of a surprise. We meet three generations of strong women, Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah as they try to manage both a funeral home and a detective agency after the death Dorothy’s husband Jim, the head of the family.

The opening of the book was certainly different and certainly grabs your attention. In fact, from that point on I was definitely hooked. Whilst going through her late husbands things she finds something that really shakes her belief in the person she thought Jim was and she is determined to get to the bottom of it no matter what the truth is. And when I say determined I mean that she really will stop at nothing. Her investigations did lead to some eewww moments as I was listening to the audio book whilst walking but thankfully no one was around at the time otherwise god knows what they would have thought. When she does what went on the truth of it all is not quite what Dorothy or even I was expecting.

Hannah is investigating the murder of her flatmate and friend Mel and this headstrong member of the Skelf family often pushes forward without any real thought to the consequences of her actions. You get the feeling though this is not how she would usually operate but is driven more by the need to find the guilty party and let her friend’s family get some closure. Throughout it all she turns to the calming influence of her partner Indy who also works at the funeral home.

Jenny has only just returned to the business due to changes in her personal circumstances so throws herself into what you would expect to be a simple adultery case. It would appear however nothing in the lives of these women is simple at the moment and she is torn between her client and doing the right thing. She does seem a little unsure of herself at times, but this is probably more down to the fact this is a total change of career for her as she had not originally seen herself working in any of the family businesses.  

At one point I did wonder how many lives they were going to overturn in their individual quests for the truth but I guess if people keep secrets, then others will likely get hurt when the truth comes out. The detective agency that provides the majority of the story, and with the backdrop of Edinburgh, you will find yourselves immersed in their lives and their investigations and I defy you not to have a favourite Skelf woman. For me it is Dorothy, the 70 yr old drum playing head of the family. The book is dark in places, but Doug Johnstone has a way of creating characters that resonate with the reader. This is one series I don’t plan on falling behind on as I cant wait to see what the Skelf women find themselves in the middle of next.

About the Author

Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney 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, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home – and has been an arts 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.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

Books by Doug Johnstone:

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