Doug Johnstone introduced the women of the Skelf family in last year’s well-done A Dark Matter, prompting Twitter cries for #MoreSkelfs. He listened, and brings the trio back in The Big Chill.

Matriarch Dorothy, daughter Jenny, and university student grand-daughter Hannah, along with her partner, Indy, have kept the business running that has made the Skelfs a well-known Edinburgh name after the death of father Jim: a funeral home the older two women live over, and with it, a private investigation agency.

The events in A Dark Matter have led to the women healing physically but grieving emotionally in different ways. With Jenny’s ex-husband creating a startling wave of anxiety, the book opens with a car crashing into the open grave at one of the funerals the Skelfs are conducting.

Dorothy soon makes it her mission to discover the identity of the dead driver, and find out about his life. Jenny is caught up in a new romance, one she’s not certain she deserves, while dealing with her ex’s second wife. Could they have anything in common? And Hannah’s friendship with an elderly professor takes its own dark turn, causing her relationship with Indy to suffer in the process while she ponders life’s big questions.

It’s been said people grieve in their own way, and the women’s grief after Jim’s death was interfered with by the events in A Dark Matter. Now as they each explore the different ways to deal with their often overwhelming thoughts, more pressing needs at hand, such as a disappearing teen, often take precedence.

There are different kinds of mystery here, as each thread is followed, connections made, and unsettling events occur while life continues on in its way. There are surprises, too, that make the plot a twisted but realistic thing, one that readers will swear they can almost see happening to them.

This is a darkly funny tale, with so much knowledge of human nature running through it. Perhaps it is not that Johnstone understands humans better than some of us, but more that he is open to the many variations we offer as a response to situations, especially when we are emotionally vulnerable. In this, he has a clear eye. In these women, he’s created three strong, vastly different characters whose reactions reflect their individuality.

Auntie M loves this series and you will, too. #MoreSkelfs. Highly recommended.