I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone
Published by Orenda Books Limited on November 23 2019
Genres: Fiction, City Life, Mystery & Detective, Private Investigators, Cozy, General, Noir, Women Sleuths, Romance, LGBT, Lesbian, Psychological, Thrillers, Crime, Domestic, Women, Urban, Humorous, Black Humor, Family Life, Literary, Amateur Sleuth, Suspense
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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.
‘I was addicted from the first page; gripping, gritty and darkly funny as hell’ Erin Kelly
‘A Dark Matter showcases a writer at the peak of his powers, except that with every book, Doug Johnstone just gets better’ Val McDermid
'Emotionally complex, richly layered and darkly funny. An addictive blend of Case Histories and Six Feet Under’ Chris Brookmyre
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.
‘A fiendish mystery that is also deeply moving and laced with suitably dark humour ... set to be one of the books of the year’ Mark Billingham
‘This dark but touching thriller makes for a thoroughly enjoyable slice of Edinburgh noir’ Mary Paulson-Ellis
‘A tense ride ... strong, believable characters’ Kerry Hudson, Big Issue
‘Dark, engrossing, impossible to put down. By turns a crime thriller, a family saga, and a page-turner, this book has everything!’ Luca Veste
'That rare book with heart and smarts to lift it above your average crime novel’ Stuart Neville
‘I can never get enough of Doug Johnstone’s thoughtful, observant, soul-lifting writing’ Louise Beech
‘Piercing, wonderfully real and so very readable ... a breath of fresh air’ LoveReading
‘This is confident, assured characterisation that carries the story brilliantly well and keeps the reader utterly immersed in the interwoven story strands’ Live & Deadly
‘A Dark Matter is further proof that Doug Johnstone is as versatile a writer as they come ... there’s rhythm and music in his words’ From Belgium with Booklove
‘A thriller that begs to be read in one sitting. Highly recommend’ The Book Review Café
‘Deliciously chilling, with a wry humour running throughout ... toxic, unsettling and just perfect’ Random Things through My Letterbox
The dark sense of Scottish humour has never been utilised to its full potential. Until now. A Dark Matter is a multi-layered double entendre that is pushing itself to the surface. It capitulates the dreich weather, the wounds that get hidden by alcohol but it’s all held up by the innate will of three immensely strong female characters. They are determined. They are strong and above all…no-one should try to fuck them over! Orenda Books is my go-to publisher for crime fiction and when you find an author that drips in his skill for getting the average scots character down, you know you’re onto a winner.
We have a trio of incredibly strong women. At the top of the matriarchy is, Dorothy. A spunky 70-year-old Californian. She should be commended on her ease for settling in Scotland so well. It really can’t be easy coming from those sun kissed beaches and being faced with dreich and dour weather. She married the love of her life and they were there for each right until the end. Dorothy is a widower, a mother, a grandmother and nothing stands in her way. She put everything into her life with Jim. Their funeral director business, their marriage but did Jim feel the same way? What changed?
Jenny, Dorothy and Jim’s daughter. I loved her. She’s fallen on hard times. She’s been made redundant, she is struggling with the payments on her flat, she seems to have lost her direction in life. Her daughter is grown up, flourishing at university but Jenny seems to be going from situation to situation. Craig her ex treated her appallingly, cheated on her and left her to pick up the pieces. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly but her moral compass is still intact, despite the circumstances. She is now living back with her mum after her father’s passing and is aiding in the funeral directors and the private investigation business. Can she finally find what’s missing and move forward?
Hannah, Jenny’s daughter can be a wee bit obsessive. She focusses on the end goal and never loses sight of it. She is one smart cookie. She is neutralised and held up by her partner, Indy. What a team they make. They are each the others Ying and Yang. Hannah is rocked by the disappearance of her flatmate, Mel. She knows something isn’t right, and my Jove, she’ll get to the bottom of it.
Never doubt how strong a woman a can be, nor how dangerous. Hand this book to those who doubt and wait for their reactions – there are three Skelf women in this story and they are definitely a force to reckoned with. Each one is struggling with their grief. Dorothy finds out her husband has been making strange payments from their business account to an unknown woman. Jenny needs to navigate her new life and her case involving a cheating man. Hannah needs to focus on finding her friend otherwise where will her thoughts take her?
Events lead to a crescendo of shocks and emotion. Will the Skelf women be swallowed up cold hard facts? Are they dabbling in things that they have no right dabbling in? It’s all very bleak – love and death are two sides of the same coin.
I’m very pleased this is going to be a series, I can’t wait to see what the author has the Skelf women getting up to next. The author hasn’t only created a bubble of death and mystery but real deep-thinking points also. He has addressed the #metoo issue and carved away the fog that often surrounds it. Women are so often brought up around by everyday misogyny that sometimes it can be difficult to picture it a different way. Would it be viewed differently if women were treating men in the same way. Even when they do, it seems to be more of a non-issue. The metoo movement needs to be tackled from both angles and Doug Johnstone does that eloquently.
Dark Matter was like quicksand. When you opened the books pages it sucked you in, further and further, until you were all in…nothing was going to pull you out. Doug steers you in each direction, a myriad of compulsive, addictive stories. He’s the crazy driver but you got in his car willingly. You’re in for the long haul, there is no getting out. It really is a book of self-discovery of three immovable women. They discover a lot about themselves. The backdrop was spot on, a true portrayal of Edinburgh. From the weather to the culture, each woman sees their city differently. Their experiences aren’t the same. It really breathes a dark and foreboding element into its pages…fear lurking within.
A Dark Matter is hypnotically readable. It was intense and surreal with a sense of creeping dread pouring from its spines. Doug Johnstone is a master craftsman that will continue to get better and better. This book had me gasping for breath at its sheer brilliance.
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.