Review- A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone

Dark Matter Cover

Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral-home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, page-turning and darkly funny new series.

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 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…

A compelling, tense and shocking thriller and a darkly funny and warm portrait of a family in turmoil, A Dark Matter introduces a cast of unforgettable characters, marking the start of an addictive new series.


Today as part of Orenda October I am reposting my review of this wonderful book. The start of a wonderful family drama, it is definitely one of my all time favourite series! 

After finishing this book, my first thoughts were this book is bloody fantastic and the second, delight that it is the start of a new series.

So why is it so special?

There is a strong and I mean strong, ensemble cast of female characters who shine from the pages. They are expertly crafted and an absolute joy to spend time with. Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah are a rarity in fiction; they are the central characters in a story that reflects both their differing ages, but also the strength and diversity of their lives. From the pitch perfect description of Dorthy’s grief, her revaluation of her marriage and life, Jenny’s self destructive life and young Hannah’s search for answers about her friends disappearance and relationship with both her mum and nan, we have a portrait of a family consumed by grief, yet at the same time, the strength and love that binds them together. The Skelfs are utterly believable and captured my heart and soul as the story progressed through layers of dark comedy and danger. This is a tale about the things that bind us as families, how the ebb and flow of love pushes us apart, but always pulls us together. They are remarkable women, you fee; their pain, their love for each other, their reliance on this network that binds them and you wish, or I did and still do, that I could just spend some time with them. So real, you could almost reach into the pages and take a seat beside them.

Of course, this is also a thriller and a perfect one at that; there is both danger and twists that hit you like you have been sucker punched and struggle to catch your brief as the shock subsides. You need not worry if you’re after a thriller that will knock you off your feet, because this one will. But for me, it is lifted up into the, I wish I could award it a sack full of stars catergory, by those moments in the novel that deal with their grief at the death of patriarch Jim. Within the first few pages you become a witness not only to their loss, but a stunning depiction of his funeral and cremation that rocked my reading world, so intense, so real did it feel, that I had to take a step back before I carried on reading. It is simply like no other book I have ever read. Just for those few pages and Dorothy’s search for answers, I would happily pay any price the publisher asked of me. It is simply mesmerising and rewarding on every level.

Add to that a mystery disappearance to be solved, a husband accused of cheating, three incrediable women and you have a story, that will rock you reading world, make you laugh, cry, gasp in shock, but best of all, it will

My thanks to author and the publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review.

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

Doug Author Picture

Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018), which was longlisted 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, 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. Follow Doug on Twitter @doug_johnstone and visit his website:

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