A DARK MATTER | Doug Johnstone
01.23.2020 | Orenda Books
Rating: 4.5/ 5 stars
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 with her family trades, but left without a job and a place to live, she will need to take a chance on these changes. Dorothy has discovered a series of mysterious payments to an unknown account, which cause her to doubt who her husband was and the secrets he may have been keeping from her. Together these three strong-willed women are thrust into new arenas where they must find their footing, as well as learning to grieve for their loss and work together.
Maybe life is just a succession of diversion tactics, moments to keep you busy, stop you thinking about the big stuff. But death brings the big stuff into focus.
A DARK MATTER is a thrilling look into the everyday lives of the Skelf family. The three main characters of Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah alternatively narrate their journey in creating new bonds and embracing new careers after the passing of beloved Jim. Prior to losing Jim, these women were not living and breathing the family businesses at their funeral home and private investigation service. The reader is treated with a front row seat as our main characters learn to find their roles within the businesses, while dealing with a revolving cast of characters and grief on multiple levels.
I was familiar with Doug Johnstone’s writing from FAULT LINES, which I had the pleasure of reading in 2018. What I’ve found over two books by Johnstone is that he is a craftsman in writing in a way which immediately draws readers into his stories. The characters are easily likeable, the setting is interesting, and the air of mystery is intriguing. I love finding out what Johnstone will come up with, as I’ve been consistently left guessing what the truth might be up until the grand reveal.
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.
It’s hard for me to classify A DARK MATTER into one specific genre. On one hand it is certainly a work of crime fiction with a private investigation service being on of the Skelf family’s businesses, but there is much more below the surface. There is heart, emotion, and relatability within the pages of A DARK MATTER that is often not found in this genre. As an avid crime fiction reader I didn’t walk into this novel expecting quite the emotional punch I was greeted with. I found myself obsessively highlighting passages that rang true about life, while also enjoying being along the ride of the many cases touched upon by the Skelfs. This is easily one of those books that I would recommend to readers across vast genres, as there is a little bit of something for everything in this story.
I won’t share much more about the plot for this book, as I think it’s one best to head into blind or with limited knowledge. Let this one embrace you and take you for a ride!
If you do pick this one up, be sure to read the acknowledgements at the end to find out about Johnstone’s inspiration for his book!
The business of death never stopped. People are always going to die and we’re always going to grieve and it’s always going to hurt. All you can do is keep going, because what else is there?
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A huge thank you to Orenda Books for providing me with a free copy of this book!
Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.