REVIEW - COFFIN ROAD by Peter May

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Coffin Road
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9781784293093
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Book Synopsis

A man is washed up on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris, barely alive and borderline hypothermic. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. The only clue to his identity is a map tracing a track called the Coffin Road. He does not know where it will lead him, but filled with dread, fear and uncertainty he knows he must follow it.

A detective crosses rough Atlantic seas to a remote rock twenty miles west of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. With a sense of foreboding he steps ashore where three lighthouse keepers disappeared more than a century before - a mystery that remains unsolved. But now there is a new mystery - a man found bludgeoned to death on that same rock, and DS George Gunn must find out who did it and why.

A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her father's death. Two years after the discovery of the pioneering scientist's suicide note, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. And the more she discovers about the nature of his research, the more she suspects that others were behind his disappearance.

Coffin Road follows three perilous journeys towards one shocking truth - and the realisation that ignorance can kill us.

Book Review

A mystery set within a bubble very much heightens the senses when reading COFFIN ROAD.  The action is placed within an isolated small seaside town and there are very few characters for the reader to learn about and glean clues from.  The lead, who has lost his memory, retraces his steps in an effort to find out who he is, what kind of man he is, and what it is that he has done that has left him with such a leaden feeling of dread. 

May reaches deep into the psyche of his lead character and we are immersed very quickly in his nightmare.  Having washed up on a beach with injuries, Neal Maclean seems to have no family, no close friends, and lives in a cottage bereft of meaning personal effects with only his dog for company. He is compelled however to traverse what is locally known as Coffin Road, a walkers trail along the coastline.  As fleeting memories return to Neal, it becomes even more puzzling to him as to why he has chosen to remove himself from all he has known to live in this beautiful but remote part of Scotland. When he discovers a man’s body on a nearby island, Neal becomes more convinced that the reason why he came to be alone in this remote part of the world was because he had felt a need to hide.

Peter May never loses his way in COFFIN ROAD, coaxing his reader forward as Neal Maclean becomes more desperate to solve the mystery that his own life.  COFFIN ROAD is a beautifully descriptive novel as well as being a very personal one; the roar of the wind and the crashing of the ocean are ever present as the melancholic backdrop to one mans’ desperation.  The amnesia is thankfully only a minor plot device (that old chestnut) and it is not a novel about one man rediscovering himself – there are other forces at play that are very left field to the moody first half of this book.

Fans of Peter May will gleefully add COFFIN ROAD to their collection and new readers would be pleased with this almost closed room mystery that needs very few literary props to satisfy.

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