Blog tour: The Opposite of Lonely by Doug Johnstone

The Opposite of Lonely

This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

‘The Skelf women are recovering from the cataclysmic events that nearly claimed their lives. Their funeral-director and private-investigation businesses are back on track, and their cases are as perplexing as ever.

‘Matriarch Dorothy looks into a suspicious fire at a travellers’ site, and takes a grieving, homeless man under her wing.

‘Daughter Jenny is searching for her missing sister-in-law, who disappeared in tragic circumstances, while grand-daughter Hannah is asked to investigate increasingly dangerous conspiracy theorists, who are targeting a retired female astronaut … putting her own life at risk.

‘With a body lost at sea, funerals for those with no one to mourn them, reports of strange happenings in outer space, a funeral crasher with a painful secret, and a violent attack on one of the family, The Skelfs face their most personal – and perilous – cases yet. Doing things their way may cost them everything…’

The Opposite of Lonely

The Opposite of Lonely, by Doug Johnstone, picks up a year on from the dramatic events of Black Hearts. The Skelf family have, by and large, recovered from these, but there will always be funerals to direct and mysteries to solve.

With Dorothy looking into the case of a burned-down caravan, Jenny trying to track down her missing former sister-in-law, and Hannah helping a retired astronaut who’s under attack in her own home, I repeatedly found it hard to resist the lure of ‘just one more chapter’!

Without giving too much away, The Opposite of Lonely is a very timely novel, engaging with topics such as abuse of power in the police; explicit prejudice against, and ignorance about, the travelling community; and damaging masculine ideals.

As ever, I learned some fascinating new things while enjoying the story. I was particularly enthralled by the resomator (a machine that dissolves bodies in hot water and sodium hydroxide as an environmentally-friendly alternative to cremation), and the overview effect (whereby astronauts noticeably change their outlook on life as a result of seeing Earth from space).

I also love the dark humour and evocative descriptions of Edinburgh that characterise this series. I was more than satisfied by The Opposite of Lonely in these respects.

Something else that always strikes me when I read these books is how warm and kind the Skelfs are – even Jenny who, while often spiky, has a strong sense of social justice and can be brought round to others’ points of view.

This is especially evident in Dorothy’s keenness to take on “communal funerals” (a term she prefers to “lonely funerals”), where members of the public are encouraged to come along and help mark the passing of people who died with no apparent family or friends.

It also manifests in her involvement in a music project for refugees, and her provision of a job and board for a bereaved funeral crasher who’s living in his car.

The Opposite of Lonely is an absorbing and timely addition to one of my favourite series.

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About Alice Violett

Writer of blogs and short stories, reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK