After an unexpected death, three generations of women take over the family funeral-home and PI businesses in the first book of a brilliant, page-turning and darkly funny new series
The Skelfs are a 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 women, 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… It’s a compelling and tense thriller and a darkly funny, warm portrait of a family in turmoil.
MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
I have been a fan of Doug Johnstone’s writing since I first encountered him with Tombstoning. I think his writing has improved with every book and also the reader’s enjoyment.
The story opens with the death and cremation of the family patriarch Jim.
His widow Dorothy , along with daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah, is left to run the family funeral business; which also has a side-line in private investigations.
This leaves them juggling the bereavement business and getting more involved in the investigations. Willingly or not.
Dorothy in going through Jim’s accounts finds mysterious payments to another woman. So was he the loving husband everyone thought? Hannah finds herself investigating the disappearance of her friend Mel; and Jenny has the darkest investigation of all. Fighting to contain their grief and the demands of the business which at times threatens to overwhelm them.
Doug has painted a portrait of the Skelf women which is at times dysfunctional, humorous but mostly warm. All other characters in this are well drawn and the narrative and quality of Doug’s writing makes this book an exceptional read. For me one of the best characters is the city of Edinburgh itself. Not the usual tourist spots but the lesser known and darker districts of the city which adds depth to the story.
A dark, comedic and warm tale with surprises round the corner. I urge you to read it!
Thanks to Doug Johnstone, Orenda Books and Anne Carter for the opportunity to read this book.
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