editor's choice



We periodically wax lyrical about independent presses and their lists and Karen Sullivan’s Orenda Books has had several such shout outs. She’s a canny publisher with a great eye, and the range and quality of her authors support that. So, no surprise then that wonderful 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 and occasionally shocking tale, involving secrets, lies, adultery, missing friends and much, much more.

As the Skelf women wade through the quagmire that is grief, they are forced to confront several uncomfortable truths about themselves and their loved ones, leading them to reassess what is real and what is not.

Johnstone creates authentic female characters, flawed, yes, but warm, funny, smart, resilient – women with heart, women who resonate, as we know them or quite often are them. That’s good writing.

We can’t recommend this book enough. You’ll just have to read it.


Doug Johnston | A Dark Matter | Orenda Books |paperback original | £8.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a book proof and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Please check out the other reviews on the tour.

See also: Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; ‘Marnie Riches’ Backlash’; ‘Russ Thomas’ debut Firewatching‘; ‘Nathan Blackwell, the Sound of her Voice’;Jason Arnopp’s creepily entertaining Ghoster‘; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Rememembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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