A(nother) Year Of Orenda – The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone

Today it’s back to Mandie who has a review of book two in a series that always leaves us with a hankering for Swedish bakeries – The Big Chill from Doug Johnstone’s Skelfs series. I loved this book, so much so it made it to my #bookvent countdown last month. This is an incredible series and you can read my review of the book right here should you so choose. The good news is that we should be getting a third instalment later this year. cannot wait. For those who want to know what Mandie thinks, read on.

Source: Amazon

About the Book

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.

Mandie’s Thoughts

This is the second book in the Skelf series, and I have to say that I am really growing to love this feisty multigenerational group of women. Despite the idea of a group of women running a funeral parlour and a detective agency from the same premises seeming just a little bit out there, Doug Johnstone makes it work, giving the reader three strong, yet very different characters to follow and grow to love. 

Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah are finally starting to get their lives back to some semblance of normal when their first case literally comes crashing into their world. With no identification on him, Dorothy takes it upon herself to find the young man’s family whilst also searching for her missing student after she failed to turn up for her regular drum lesson. Events from the past that they had hoped were done and dusted, once again cause havoc in their lives, pushing them to their limits, making them question what is truly important.

This book seems to concentrate more on the PI part of the business but in doing so we get to learn far more about the main characters, especially Hannah who seems to be struggling with the past whilst trying to find out why her professor decided to end his life and orchestrated it so that she was the one who found him, sending her into a bit of a downward spiral as she starts to push her loved ones away.

This book highlights both the importance of family and the lengths that some will go to in order to protect others and themselves from hurt and shame. With several different stories threading their way throughout the book you may be worried that it could get confusing, however even with three different voices and viewpoints this book just seems to flow perfectly, with a little dark humour and science thrown in along the way. I for one can’t wait for the next book in the series to see what life throws at the Skelf women 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.

Books by Doug Johnstone:

6 thoughts on “A(nother) Year Of Orenda – The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone

  1. Hurray for the second year of Orenda! This sounds like a super intirguing read, definitely going to take a look!


Comments are closed.