- Barbara Copperthwaite
Review: COFFIN ROAD, Peter May
“Go on, try not to keep turning the pages; you won’t be able to.”
The million-selling author of the Lewis trilogy brings murder back to the Outer Hebrides.
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.
It’s something of a cliché to say that you were hooked from the very first line. But if it were not the first line alone that did it for me, then it was definitely the first paragraph of Coffin Road.
“Oooh, what’s going on?” I couldn’t help asking myself.
Evocative and mysterious: who could ask for more? But then, this is Peter May, a man with a writing CV longer than your arm – and possibly longer than both arms.
The author gets straight into the action, as his hero wakes up with no idea of who he is or how he got there. The mystery he must unravel is his own. And soon he is starting to wonder if he is a killer – and what on earth could have driven him to do such a thing.
The question is, who do you trust when you can't trust even trust yourself?
As you would expect, Coffin Road is tightly written, well told, and rattles along at a great pace, weaving in three different narrative strands that at first seem to have nothing to do with one another, but then start pulling slowly together. Go on, try not to keep turning the pages; you won’t be able to.
It also has a great sense of place. Peter May is brilliant at making the reader feel the biting wind, see the harsh landscape, and shiver at the choppy sea. And with all of that comes a fabulous atmosphere and sense of growing foreboding.
But what I particularly loved was the reason behind the action. I won’t give it away, but what I will say is that by reading this novel you get far more than a simple crime story. You also get a lesson in something disturbing that is actually happening in the world right now (aside from the murder plots, hopefully). All of Peter May’s science is spot on. After you’ve read this book, do a spot of Googling, check it out. You’ll be amazed.
Now if that isn’t an intriguing note on which to end this review, I don’t know what is. Sate your curiosity, and read Coffin Road. It’s a top-notch read – and so much more.