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A Dark Matter

( The Skelfs #1)

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  41 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Expected publication: June 1st 2020 by Orenda Books
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Average rating 4.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  78 ratings  ·  41 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
...more
Jessica
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 isn’t sure where she wants to find herself
...more
Sarah
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 couldn’t 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
...more
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, it’s the first in a series following three generations of Skelf Woman. This is a book that doesn’t fit ...more
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)
...more
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 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 ...more
Shelley
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh my, this is one unique, wonderful and engrossing read. I haven’t read Doug Johnstone before and I didn’t know what to expect ofA Dark Matterbut 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 brilliantly…and plot, dark humour and mystery. It’s all rather brilliant to be honest. Right from the beginning I was gripped by the characters, storyline and writing. He has ...more
Shalini
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, Dorothy’s 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
...more
Rebecca
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve 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. It’s 5 stars from me!

My full review: https://whatrebeccasread.wordpress.co...
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!
Jen
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
Sue
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,
...more
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
...more
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
...more
Joanne
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
Don Jimmy Reviews
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Dark Matter starts with a funeral. A family is saying goodbye to their dearly departed Husband/Father/Grandfather and they are quickly thrown into the running of the family business. What is the business? Undertaking…. with a side of private investigation.

The story brings together three very strong female leads. The matriarch of the family, Dorothy, is mother to Jennifer, and grandmother to Hannah. She is very different to most of the grandmother’s you may know – what with a drum kit on the
...more
James
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This opens with the funeral pyre (illegally done in the backyard) of undertaker Jim Skelf. Having spent a lifetime arranging the burial or cremation of others, Jim asked in his will for none of that, for instead to be burnt on a pyre in his garden and this the family does. Jim was the patriarch of the family. Or was he? For we are soon introduced to the protagonists of the story: Jim’s wife, Dorothy; his daughter, Jenny; his granddaughter, Hannah. As well as the family’s long-established ...more
Cheryl M-M
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
When it comes to this particular author I find it fascinating how his stories have a chameleon like tendency to them. It's almost as if settling on one genre is simply not fulfilling enough, especially when inspiration takes one in a completely different direction every time. You just never know where a Johnstone story will take you next.

I loved the way this story began. It's slightly morbid and yet at times wonderfully entertaining. It's also exactly what my father said to do in the event of
...more
Maria
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! Really, this is the only thing you need to know before you start reading this book, you’ll enjoy every page, I am sure!
This is a story about death, but not in a traditional way. From the eyes of three women we will see how they are affected by the death of a loved one; how their emotions become cloudy with grieve and they act with impulses instead of thoughtful acts. But I think that any reader who has lost someone they cared will see a little part in each one of these three women;
...more
Melanie’s reads
Well this certainly ticked a lot of my boxes, strong women characters, death which I’ve 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 didn’t 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
...more
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, Jim’s 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, Indy’s flatmate goes missing she is determined to find out what has happened. Did she really know her friend? And what she finds will be
...more
Sonya Alford
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I totally loved 'A Dark Matter' and I am so very happy that this is the start of a new series otherwise I would probably be in mourning by now. This is the first book by Doug Johnstone I have read, and I am seriously impressed. What an ingenious storyline. The writing flowed easily, and I was able to follow the story without any problem. I also liked the way the chapters were set out.

I found this to be an extremely dark and intriguing read. The further I got into the book the more addicted I
...more
Julia
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Dark Matter is a unique and quirky mystery that will grab your attention from the very first sentence. The descriptions in that opening scene are laced with the darkest of black humour, a trait which continues throughout the book.

This really is a multi-faceted and intelligent story, multiple mysteries, at times a black comedy, an emotional family drama and a PI investigation, with genuinely thrilling and shocking moments.

I did struggle a little at first to ground myself in the story: there was
...more
LJ (On The Shelf Reviews)
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow, A Dark Matter was a complex, dark and utterly fantastic!

There is some much crammed into the just over three hundred pages of this novel, it’s difficult to know where to start, there’s just never a dull moment!

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write; funeral directing private investigators are what crime fiction has been missing. Genuinely I don’t think I’ve come across this concept before, especially as all the main characters are all women, and I’ve read a lot of crime fiction over
...more
Gaby (GNTxREADs)
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, blog-tours
The opening pages of this book captured the rawness of family heartbreak and professional perseverance. Death has always been prominent in the family business, but the dynamic completely changes when it slides into their personal life following Jim's death. The Skelfs are a very intriguing family and the relationships between Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah add lots of levels to the story as they seek to continue his work.


Each character on their own comes across as very independent and headstrong,
...more
The Literary Shed
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it

Doug Johnstone’s latest novel, A Dark Matter, is published by Orenda this month. Based in Edinburgh, A Dark Matter introduces the Skelfs to audiences. Three generations of women, headed by grandmother Dorothy, they are PIs and funeral home owners. Of course. Why not?

As the book opens, Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah are dealing with the loss of patriarch Jim and are taking stock of where they’re at, personally and professionally. What follows is a darkly funny, tightly written
...more
Liz Barnsley
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Doug Johnstone’s 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
...more
Pam Robertson
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My Thoughts



I was hooked from the opening chapter, with its arresting imagery and dark, dark subject. Beneath the writing runs a seam of subtly black humour which roots the writing in the everyday. There are plenty of family dynamics going on in this story. Told from the perspective of three generations, we have Hannah, Jenny and Dorothy. As the three Skelf women take over the family businesses of Private Investigator and Funeral Directors, there are plenty of story threads to follow and a
...more
Finding My Voice
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What can I say… what a start to a series. Doug Johnstone has his work cut out to keep up with A Dark Matter but I have no doubt in my mind that he will knock us out of the park yet again with the next in this series.

To say A Dark Matter is a page turner, magnificent and mesmerising feels like an understatement. I am wildly excited about this series and this is book one.

Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah are extremely wicked and fantastic characters, brought to life in every single page. Doug Johnstone
...more
Yvonne
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. Jim’s death leaves not only a big
...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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