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A Dark Matter

( The Skelfs #1)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  189 ratings  ·  83 reviews
Meet the Skelfs: well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators. When patriarch Jim dies, its 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 ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Expected publication: June 1st 2020 by Orenda Books
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Average rating 4.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  189 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blog-tour
So you say you are going to take over the family business...hmmm you sure you can handle that?! A Dark Matter, is in fact dark indeed. Dark in all my favorite ways. It was a gritty, humorous at times read, that was all kinds of wrong. Just read the opening paragraph and you will be hooked! Go ahead and peek, you know you want to.

When Jim Skelf passes away the family business must go on. Except the family business is a "hands on" type of work, one where you can't be afraid to get a little dirt on
Linda Strong
They call this a darkly funny mystery/crime fiction. They called it right. Being first in a series, this novel is more character oriented, with suspense coming in farther along in the book.

Three generations from the Skelf's family are involved in the family funeral home business and a PI business. When patriarch Jim dies, its left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events.

It's only after they cremate
We meet the Skelfs on the day that they are saying goodbye to their patriarch, Jim. They are doing this in a somewhat bizarre way. Though they run a funeral home, they are having an illegal funeral pyre in their backyard - as requested by Jim...

Jim's passing greatly affects those he has left behind.  For one thing, the business must go on and the fact that the family are surrounded by death on a daily basis makes the loss of Jim even more poignant.

"Maybe life is just a succession of diversion
Liz Barnsley
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Doug Johnstones latest offering is a deliciously dark drama crime mash up featuring the Skelfs, an engaging and quirky family unit that runs a funeral home and private investigator service. It has all the ironic, deep and emotional humour of Six Feet Under with an almost noirish crime undertone that is really engaging.

We get the viewpoint of three generations of Skelf women, each one full of vibrant reality and in turn they take you deep inside the group dynamic that makes up this beautifully
Rachel Hall
Feb 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Muted execution of a mouth-wateringly original set-up with three generations of one family tackling death & crime.

A Dark Matter introduces the Skelf family and three generations of women whose surname is synonymous with death in the city of Edinburgh. With the family home having doubled as a funeral parlour for the last century and a private investigators for the last decade, wife, daughter and granddaughter are laying patriarch, Jim, to rest in a contrary cremation he explicitly requested.
Laura Rash
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic and truly original whodunnit with three tales going all at once! Loved the characters, the whole premise of this book and hope there are more in a series to come. Many thanks to Orenda for this copy for review.
Miriam Smith
Feb 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: tbc, orenda
3.5 stars

If youre into dark, edgy and slightly ironically humoured crime dramas then Doug Johnstones A Dark Matter is the book for you. Id never have expected to read a storyline involving a family undertakers business that sidelines as a private investigator. However, the author has combined death and crime to produce a decent outing in the first of a new series featuring three generations of strong Scottish women, who take charge of the business after their patriarch dies.
Combining a family
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 - rounding up for Goodreads!

The Skelfs are a well-known family in Edinburgh. They run a successful, long-established funeral home, as well as a private investigation service. When Jim, the patriarch of the Skelf family passes away, the family businesses are left to his wife, Dorothy, daughter, Jenny, and granddaughter, Hannah.

Hannah is ready to leap head on into both businesses, a decision that is accelerated after her roommate disappears. Jenny isnt sure where she wants to find herself
The Book Review Café
When I picked up A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone, I felt a frisson of excitement, (Breakers one of his previous book is sitting solidly on my list of top reads of 2019) as you are never sure what road the author will take you down, but once again the author has written an impressive book, with remarkable characters. A Dark Matter is certainly different to Breakers but how I loved this book, its the first in a series following three generations of Skelf Woman. This is a book that doesnt fit ...more
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I have been so excited about this latest offering by the author. An under takers as well as private investigators, what is not to love? The title couldnt be anymore perfect for this brilliant read.

The story alternates in chapters between the three main characters, Dorothy the head of the family, Jenny her daughter and Hannah her granddaughter. I love how the author introduces us to these three generations of women. All quite different in character yet all appealing to the reader in their own
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So, where to begin with A Dark Matter, as Doug Johnstone once again shows the complexity and diversity of his writing, making him one of the most accomplished writers in the crime genre at the moment. You genuinely never know where his writing is going to lead you, and always has the power to surprise

I must confess to not knowing where to start with this one, as this is the book which has come closest to rivalling The Jump my favourite of Johnstones books to date. I think for my review I could
A DARK MATTER (The Skelfs #1) is the first thriller novel in the new series by author Doug Johnstone. This is a dark drama crime that featured the Skelf family who run a funeral home and a private investigator business. What a great combination, death and crime and the humour is engaging.

Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral-home and PI businesses in this first dark and funny new series. The Skelfs are a well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title is a fitting one. This dark tale opens with the (illegal) cremation of Jim Skelf in the back garden of the Skelf family home. His wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah take over the family funeral directors business and the private eye business that goes with it.
So the 3 Skelf women become involved in various investigations which has them checking up on cheating husbands and wives and trying to solve the case of a missing University student who's a friend of Hannah's.
Melanie’s reads
Well this certainly ticked a lot of my boxes, strong women characters, death which Ive always had a morbid curiosity with, dark humour and mystery solving. Then to top all that off the missing girl was called Mel. Although if I ever go missing just look in the nearest bookshop.

This book opened with an an absolute belter of a sentence and then didnt let go. Three generations of Skelf women picking up the pieces and taking on both businesses after Jim dies. Having to speak to the grieving while
Yvonne (It's All About Books)

Finished reading: December 29th 2019

"Everyone is the main character in their own story, has their own life to lead, full of sorrow and joy, boredom and excitement, life and death."

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

(view spoiler)
Lel Budge
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in Edinburgh, this starts with a funeral pyre in the garden, just as Jim wanted it, melting feet aside!

It is the story of three women, Dorothy, Jims widow, Jenny, their daughter and Hannah, their granddaughter. All grieving, but carrying on with their family business, the Skelf funeral directors and private investigators.

When Hannah and her girlfriend, Indys flatmate goes missing she is determined to find out what has happened. Did she really know her friend? And what she finds will be
David Harris
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm grateful to Orenda Books for letting me have a free advance e-copy of A Dark Matter.

I loved this book for a number of reasons, not all of which may generalise. First, and this is all me for,




To explain the jargon, I studied physics at Edinburgh (no introduction to the city needed I hope) University from 1986 to 1993 (BSc and PhD, I could think once upon a time) and for most of that period I worked at King's Buildings (KB) and was based in the James Clerk Maxwell Building
The Coycaterpillar Reads
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 its all held up by the innate will of three immensely strong female characters.  They are determined.  They are strong and above allno-one should try to fuck them over!  Orenda Books is my go-to publisher for crime fiction and when you find ...more
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh my, this is one unique, wonderful and engrossing read. I havent read Doug Johnstone before and I didnt know what to expect of A Dark Matter but I felt intrigued by the synopsis, plus it is published by Orenda Books and so of course it was always going to be something special. And special it is. Boy does Doug write women brilliantlyand plot, dark humour and mystery. Its all rather brilliant to be honest. Right from the beginning I was gripped by the characters, storyline and writing. He has ...more
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ive been won over by the Skelf women and the mysteries they are trying to uncover in A Dark Matter. This is a unique mystery and thriller that will keep you engaged throughout. Its 5 stars from me!

My full review:
Alfred Nobile
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a dark tale of a dysfunctional family. Aren't we all? More on the blog tour!
A Dark Matter is the first book in the Skelfs series and what a start it is. This book is a fabulous blend of family, science, and mystery . A story which is surrounded by death, but for none of the typical reasons - although there is a murder to solve. But when the people looking into the crime manage both a Private Investigation firm AND a funeral home, you know that things are going to get interesting. Quite the unconventional mix wouldn't you say?Now this has to be possibly one of the most ...more
John Travers
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
What to do with Doug Johnstone...

Great book. Again. But. And its a but again.

I wouldnt be so annoyed if doings books werent about the best written characters and settings and original stories that really immerse me in that world for a couple of years.


Every single one of his books. When you get to the last couple of chapters you know its going to turn to shite. Every one. The baddy is unmasked scooby doo like which is fine but then theres always this dash to a location. A fight. A stabbing
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The really like the simplicity of this cover and as I again look at it after reading the book it is also so appropriate. The synopsis does a great job of setting the basics up for this story. This is the first in a new series by Doug Johnstone and I have to say I cannot wait to see what these feisty Sklef women get up to in further books.

This is a story that is about coming to terms with the death of a loved one who left one or two skeletons lurking behind him. Jims death leaves not only a big
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was quite a fun read. 3 women who went sleuthing in different cases.

Meet the 3 generations of Skelfs, Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah. After the death of Jim, Dorothys husband, which was the first chapter, the 3 women took over the funeral business. And they came across 3 different mysteries. Monthly anonymous payments, follow the husband, and missing person/death. The Skelfs sure were busy in the entire book.

My first book by author Doug Johnstone, I found the whole story quite cute. No, the
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Three generations of Skelf women take over the family undertakers and private investigation businesses, after the unexpected death of the family patriarch, Jim.

Although the Skelfs are a well-known and respected Edinburgh family, only the only Skelf woman who has been involved in the family funeral business to date, is Jim's wife, Dorothy - although she has never had anything to do with the PI side of things.

This is all new for Dorothy and Jim's ex-reporter daughter, Jenny and her own daughter,
Suze Bickerton
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved Johnstone's last book, the McIlvanney Prize shortlisted Breakers, so had high expectations for this one. A Dark Matter focuses on another, very different, Edinburgh family and I loved it just as much.

Following the death of Jim Skelf, his wife Dorothy, assisted by daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah, takes over both his businesses - the funeral home and the private investigations. The women are assisted in the funeral business by employees Archie and Indy, Hannah's girlfriend. All of
What Do I Read Now
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Yet another enticing, gripping and emotive read from Doug Johnstone. Such a talent, that I have come to expect and A Dark Matter doesnt disappoint.

The storyline is such that you cant stop reading and the characters Dorothy, Jenny & Hannah Skelf, along with various others, all mingle nicely and make the book flow at a great pace. Theres Archie who has medication due to being convinced hes dead so it makes sense to work in an undertakers I guess. Indy Hannahs girlfriend, Craig Jennys Ex
Karen Cole
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the third of Doug Johnstone's books I've read after Fault Lines and the McIlvanney Prize nominated Breakers and what I've come to realise is that even though each story he writes is very different, what he does every time is get to the heart of why people behave as they do. A Dark Matter is no exception and so I'm thrilled that this is the first in a planned trilogy (I'm keeping my fingers crossed for even more!)
The eye-catching, irreverent first line brings to mind the opening of Iain
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Dark Matter is the latest novel from Doug Johnstone and was partly inspired by his time as writer in residence at a funeral directors in Edinburgh. It begins with three generations of the Skelf family attending the cremation of Jim Skelf, in a rather unorthodox send-off. As well as owning and running the Skelf family funeral directors, Jim had a sideline in private detective work. With Jim gone, the women of the family soon find themselves getting involved in various investigations. In days ...more
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Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His fourth novel, Hit & Run, is published by Faber and Faber on March 15th 2012. His previous novel, Smokeheads, was published in March 2011, also by Faber. before that he published two novels with Penguin, Tombstoning (2006) and The Ossians (2008), which received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and ...more

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