Doug Johnstone: The Big Chill

Today I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for The Big Chill. My review is written with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and Orenda Books for my copy of 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.


Doug Johnstone has an amazing way with words. His mesmerising writing and dark humour drew me in to the story immediately and I wanted to keep reading until I was finished. Hannah is a physics student and I particularly enjoyed Johnstone’s explanations of different theories (in language that a completely not scientific person like me could understand) to describe how we all connected to the wider world.

The Skelf ladies are a formidable bunch and i enjoyed getting closer to them in The Big Chill. Johnstone has created characters here with whom I could really empathise, and as they each narrate their own chapters, the reader gets to see the feelings they might not express in front of others. The reader also meets a number of characters through the Skelf businesses, and I loved how each of these had their own back story, which meant I could connect with them more easily and understand their place within the overall plot.

The Big Chill is set in Edinburgh, and the sense of place within the novel is brilliant. I’m not familiar with the area, but Johnstone’s descriptions meant I could walk the streets and picture perfectly what was happening.

Towards the end of the novel, there are some really chilling revelations. The plot becomes explosive and there are several tense moments that I was not expecting!

I look forward to seeing where Johnstone takes the Skelf family next!

The Big Chill is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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