BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Big Chill – by Doug Johnstone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Big Chill Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I became an instant fan of Doug Johnstone‘s writing after reading Breakers last year, and my second experience with A Dark Matter only reconfirmed these feelings. I’ve been looking forward to meet up with the Skelf women ever since, and The Big Chill turned out to be yet another excellent read. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Big Chill
(The Skelfs #2)
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 20th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: July 2nd 2020
Pages: 300

“Words have meaning, of course, but they’re so inadequate, and we each have a lifetime of hang-ups and quirks that feed into how we speak.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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My first experience with Doug Johnstone‘s writing with Breakers last year simply blew me away, and after a repeat experience with A Dark Matter I’ve been waiting impatiently to meet up with the Skelf women again. It’s easy to say that my expectations were high, but I shouldn’t have worried as The Big Chill turned out to be another excellent read. A little warning: while technically you could read this sequel as a stand-alone, you would be missing out on the character background as well as important life changing events in the first book. I would recommend reading them in order! Trust me, both books will be well worth your time.

This series can be seen as a mix of a family drama and a crime thriller with a PI angle and is set in Edinburgh. The description and development of this Scottish setting is simply sublime, and really made Scotland come alive for me. I also love the focus on the funeral home both as a setting and part of the plot itself. It’s without doubt an unique angle and really set the right atmosphere for this story! Both death itself, the private investigator element and the things that happen in the funeral home in general play a key role in the plot, turning the funeral home into an integral part of the story.

The Big Chill once again evolves around three generations of Skelf women: Dorothy, her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Hannah. Once again, these three different POVs are used to tell us the story, alternating between them as we slowly learn about the different storylines and characters in play. This gives the plot a multidimentional and complex feel and really took the story to the next level for me. It might seem like a lot to juggle initially, but once you get in the groove, you will find yourself fully under the spell of this story. Especially since each POV complemented the other two, adding to their own storyline as well as adding to the suspense and overall story…

This sequel has once again a lot of different elements and storylines in play. Among other things, we have the funeral home and everything it entails, the PI angle and active investigations, more follow-up on Craig after what happened in book one, an unexplained suicide, a body without identity, dealing with life changing and threatening events… This sounds like a lot to juggle in just one story, but somehow it simply works like a charm as each element is incorporated flawlessly. I do have to stay I found the pace to be a bit slower in The Big Chill, and I did wonder about the credibility of some of the plot twists introduced, but overall the rest of the story more than made up for it. Especially since both the writing as well as the suspense and plot twists are once again brilliant, and delivered the same high quality I’ve become used to with Doug Johnstone‘s books. This is a story that will keep you on your toes and there will be more than one shocking surprise before you reach that final page… And that ending will leave you breathless and wanting for more.

The Big Chill is already the second book of this series around the Skelf family, and without doubt another excellent read. While the pace is initially slower than expected, this same pace will pick up as things start spinning out of control and both suspense and plot twists are build up brilliantly. This story definitely ends with a big bang! If you like books that won’t fit into a neat genre box and enjoy a well written and multidimentional crime thriller as well as a family drama element, this series is most likely a great fit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. 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, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – 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.


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WWW Wednesdays #276 – July 8th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I was in the mood for a cute contemporary so I decided to finally pick up my TBR jar pick Broken Hearts, Fences And Other Things To Mend by Katie Finn. I’ll also be starting the third Detective Jane Phillips book Deadly Vengeance by OMJ Ryan for the upcoming blog tour…

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone (4/5 stars) REVIEW 27/07
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour!!

2. Opium And Absinthe by Lydia Kang (3/5 stars) REVIEW 12/07
I admit that it was cover love at first sight when I saw Opium And Absinthe, but I was completely sold as soon as I read the blurb. I’ve enjoyed Lydia Kang‘s books, including The Impossible Girl, in the past, and another historical setting with a medical twist sounded simply fantastic. I liked the historical setting, the Dracula element and the investigation into Lucy’s death as well as the medical details… But the slow pace, the repetitive and sometimes dull plot and constant focus on the substance abuse instead of a proper focus on character and plot development ended up being mostly a letdown for me.

3. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (5/5 stars) REVIEW 19/07
I already knew Dear Martin was probably have an impact on me after all those raving reviews, but I was blown away by just how much it hit the mark and left me reeling. This is such an important, powerful and absolutely heartbreaking debut and helps educate us just how real the American race problematics are even to this date. In the light of recent events, Dear Martin is even more of an eye opener and I cannot thank the author enough for getting Justyce’s story out in the world.

4. Entre Senderos De Lavanda by Mariela Gimenez (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 25/07
I read this book as part of the Masa Critica Argentina program through Babelio, and I had an excellent time with this story! It’s a contemporary romance read set in France with a wonderful cast of characters. I really enjoyed the building up of the different relationships despite the appearance of the love triangle, and I think this has to do with the fact that a lot of the focus is on familiar relationships as well as self discovery too. I wasn’t going to post a full review on my blog at first, but as I prefer writing my reviews in English first anyway before I translate them to Spanish, I decided to put it on my blog too in case someone is interested in a Spanish read.

5. The Cry Of The Lake by Charlie Tyler (2/5 stars) REVIEW 21/07
I admit that it was cover love at first sight for me, but I liked the sound of the blurb too… Sadly, I wasn’t too convinced by the story itself. The three different POVs didn’t complement each other but distracted instead, the plot itself felt too chaotic and unrealistic and I couldn’t warm to the writing either. The lack of information was confusing instead of adding the intended dose of suspense, and the characters themselves didn’t feel realistic and were hard to like. All in all not the experience I was hoping for.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I need to make my way through my August ARCs ASAP as we have started a huge home improvement/DIY project and once the painting/cleaning phase of the project arrives I probably won’t be having any free time/energy left to read. xD First up are two thrillers: Save Her Soul by Lisa Regan and Echoes Of Guilt by Rob Sinclair. I’ll probably take a break from ARCs in between with Fruit Of The Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras as I’ve been dying to read it… And I have a new TBR jar pick! Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. I can’t say I’ve had this one on my radar lately, and I’m not sure how long it will take to actually read it as I have a pile of other books I want to read first, but we’ll see how things go I guess.


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WWW Wednesdays #275 – July 1st

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m finally reading my second Spanish read of the year and pending Masa Crítica Argentina title: Entre Senderos De Lavanda by Mariela Giménez. It sounds like an interesting mix of mystery and romance and I hope it will be as good as the stunning cover! I’ve also started my upcoming blog tour read The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone, as I always like keeping a title on hand on my kindle whenever I’m not feeling like reading in Spanish and/or handling a physical copy.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver (4/5 stars) REVIEW 14/07
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour!!

2. The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey (4/5 stars) REVIEW 06/07
I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the comparison to A Man Called Ove and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I adored both books and its characters, and I just knew I HAD to meet Missy Carmichael to see if she could win me over too. The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael turned out to be both charming and heartbreaking at the same time. While I confess that it took me some time to warm up to Missy, once I did I found myself to be completely under her spell. I loved seeing Missy develop and blossom over time, and if you are craving a heartfelt contemporary with well developed characters and don’t mind shedding a tear or two, this debut is an excellent choice.

3. Good Girl Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (4/5 stars) REVIEW 11/07
I’ve been meaning to try this author for quite some time now, and being approved for an ARC of the Cyrus Haven sequel was the perfect excuse to finally do so. Good Girl Bad Girl is without doubt an engaging as well as twisted start of this series. Recommended if you like a good crime thriller with a psychology angle and don’t mind things getting pretty dark and twisted in points.

4. When She Was Good by Michael Robotham (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 16/07
The first book kind of left me wanting to know how things would continue with Cyrus and Evie, and this sequel will without doubt explore more of Evie’s past. I have to be honest here and say I felt that the plot and plot twists ended up crossing the boundary of credibility for me and some of the twists were just too over the top to be believable. Sure, if you like plenty of action and a whole lot of dark twists and shocking details you will be in for a treat, but I don’t think this sequel was as good as my first meeting with Cyrus and Evie.

5. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 11/07
I’ve heard nothing but great things about this title and it turned out to be just as good as I hoped it would be! The perfect mix of paranormal mystery and crime thriller that had me racing through the pages. I loved the dual POV, with its clever use of twists to keep you in the dark and only slowly reveal what Viv discovered in the past as well as what Carly finds out in the present. Creepy, ominous and oh so engaging!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m probably picking up another 20 Books Of Summer title next: Fruit Of The Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. I’ve been wanting to read it for ages now! I also want to read The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel ASAP. Then it’s back to ARCs with an August blog tour read: Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks. My latest TBR jar pick is still Broken Hearts, Fences And Other Things To Mend by Katie Finn, which I’m planning on reading some time this month.


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